Come wintertime, wildlife descends from snowy peaks to milder climate

February 21, 2012

State wildlife biologist Brian Kertson spent five years studying the local cougar population, including a 130-pound, 2-year-old male tranquilized, captured and tagged in the Cedar River watershed in 2008. Contributed

As the snow moves down the mountains reaching lower elevations, so do most mountain wildlife inhabitants, from small animals to deer and elk.

And just in case you were wondering, bears don’t hibernate.

Those are two basic bits of information passed on by local experts asked to describe what happens to Issaquah wildlife during the winter months. It’s not the temperature, but snow that motivates most animals’ cold weather behavior, said Stephen West, associate director of the School of Environmental and Forestry Sciences at the University of Washington.

For the most part, cougars, deer and other local wildlife can tolerate any cold the Northwest brings their way, West said. It’s mountain snow they can’t deal with — it makes it more difficult for them to get around and much more difficult for them to find food. So as snow appears, many animals head for lower elevations. There are exceptions, including bears.

Bears don’t migrate, but rather stay in their normal territory, said Kenneth Raedeke, an affiliate professor in the UW’s Wildlife Science Program and the president of an environmental consulting firm.

And despite what you may have heard all your life, bears don’t hibernate, Raedeke and West said. Full hibernation means an animal is unconscious and its body temperature drops to match the surrounding temperature, West said. For an animal the size of a bear, waking up from such a state would require more biological energy and heat than they have available to them.

While they don’t fully hibernate, bears do go into a sort of relaxed state for perhaps three or four of the coldest months of the year, Raedeke said, adding a bear’s heart rate can drop as low as eight beats per minute. Even so, bears can and do remain somewhat active, coming out of their hiding spots periodically. And if you happen to stumble into an occupied bear den during the winter, the resident likely will take notice.

Read more

CleanScapes picks up Issaquah garbage contract

October 25, 2011

The next hauler for Issaquah garbage is CleanScapes.

In a unanimous decision Oct. 17, City Council members selected the Seattle-based garbage hauler to serve Issaquah neighborhoods other than Greenwood Point and South Cove. CleanScapes offered additional curbside recycling options, a local storefront, wildlife-resistant containers and other features to land the $3.8-million-per-year Issaquah contract.

Consumers could experience a rate decrease as the city transitions from the current hauler, Waste Management, to CleanScapes in early summer.

The rate could decrease from $13.43 to $12.74 for a residential customer putting a 32-gallon cart out for weekly curbside pickup — although a recent rate increase from the King County Council could dilute the proposed drop.

The contract runs from July 1 through June 2019.

“The public should realize that the staff of the city of Issaquah didn’t just put it out there and say, ‘Tell us what you can offer,’” Councilman Mark Mullet said. “They actually wrote the proposal saying, ‘This is what the city needs to have. These are the minimum, baseline service requirements that we’re going to ask for the citizens of Issaquah.’ Then, the different vendors were able to come back and say, ‘We’ll provide those at this price,’ and they could offer things on top of that.”

Council Utilities, Technology & Environment Committee members met representatives from CleanScapes and the other candidates, Allied Waste and Waste Management, Oct. 11 and sent the contract to the full council for approval.

Read more

City Council selects CleanScapes to haul Issaquah garbage

October 19, 2011

NEW — 11 a.m. Oct. 19, 2011

The next hauler for Issaquah garbage is Seattle-based CleanScapes, City Council members decided Monday.

In a unanimous decision, council members selected the garbage hauler to serve Issaquah neighborhoods other than Greenwood Point and South Cove. CleanScapes offered additional curbside recycling options, a local storefront, wildlife-resistant containers and other features to land the $3.8-million-per-year Issaquah contract.

Consumers could experience a rate decrease as the city transitions from the current hauler, Waste Management, to CleanScapes.

For a residential customer putting a 32-gallon cart out for weekly curbside pickup, rates could decrease from $13.43 to $12.74 — though a recent rate increase from the King County Council could dilute the proposed drop in rates.

The contract runs from July 1 through June 2019.

Read more

City could choose CleanScapes for garbage contract, dump Waste Management

October 18, 2011

Officials seek hauler to serve most Issaquah neighborhoods

CleanScapes nudged out larger competitors and emerged as the No. 1 contender to haul Issaquah garbage due, in part, to offering curbside pickup for difficult-to-recycle items, such as batteries and light bulbs.

The city is seeking a garbage hauler to serve most Issaquah neighborhoods. Waste Management is the predominant hauler in the city, but the current contract between Issaquah and the Houston-based company expires in June.

Seattle-based CleanScapes came out as the top candidate after city officials evaluated offers from both companies and another collector, Allied Waste — a local name for national company Republic Services.

City officials said a $3.8-million-per-year CleanScapes contract could mean lower rates for Issaquah customers, plus increased customer service and recycling options. The contract requires City Council approval.

If the CleanScapes contract is approved, a residential customer putting a 32-gallon cart out for weekly curbside pickup could see rates decrease from $13.43 to $12.74 — a 5.1 percent drop.

Read more

Encounters between black bears and humans increase

August 2, 2011

Jack Altree snapped a photo of a black bear in his backyard in the 3400 block of 239th Avenue Southeast at about 1:15 p.m. July 18, just before the bear destroyed a birdfeeder in search of a snack. By Jack Altree

Cool weather is factor in frequent sightings

The dreary summer is not just disrupting afternoons alongside Lake Sammamish or hikes atop Cougar Mountain.

The unseasonably cool conditions also impacted food sources for the black bears common in the forests around Issaquah and across the Evergreen State.

Read more

Bears awaken from hibernation

May 17, 2011

Wildlife experts advise caution as local sightings increase

Bears take refuge in a Sammamish Plateau tree during a May sighting. By Bent Wiencke

State Department of Fish and Wildlife agents responded to a bear in a home last week, after a surprised Issaquah woman discovered the animal pawing around inside a locked garage.

The incident underscored the need for education about black bears as the close encounters between humans and bears start for the year.

State wildlife officials and organizations remind residents in Issaquah and other communities near bear habitat to take precautions as soon as possible to limit the potential for dangerous encounters.

Bear Awareness Week is observed in Washington through May 21.

The incident relating to the bear in the garage is the latest sighting in recent weeks as bears started to emerge from hibernation early last month.

Issaquah School District administrators spotted bears near several campuses in April and May, including Cascade Ridge, Clark and Newcastle elementary schools. Police received a call about a bear at the downtown Issaquah Salmon Hatchery in late April.

Residents have reported frequent sightings in neighborhoods throughout the city. In the latest example, Issaquah police officers received a call at 11:43 a.m. May 10 about a bear inside a garage in a tree-lined neighborhood near the Sammamish Family YMCA, not far from Providence Point.

Read more

Prosecutors consider charges in bear shooting

May 17, 2011

The investigation into a November bear shooting is complete and the King County Prosecutor’s Office is reviewing the case and should decide whether to file charges soon, spokesman Dan Donohoe said.

State wildlife agents tranquilized and captured the bear Nov. 11 after a homeowner reported a trapped black bear in a creek near Highlands Drive Northeast and Southeast Black Nugget Road. PAWS veterinarians later euthanized the bear cub, because a bullet left the animal paralyzed.

State Department of Fish and Wildlife investigators identified the person believed to be responsible for shooting the black bear by late November, but did not release additional details. Investigators said community members in the neighborhood offered tips during the search for a suspect.

The state classifies unlawful hunting of big game as a felony. Upon conviction, the state revokes all hunting licenses or tags, and suspends the violator’s hunting privileges for 10 years. The penalty also includes a $2,000 fine.

The state classifies the black bear as a game animal, but killing a bear in self-defense, or to defend someone else, should be reasonable and justified. The bear must pose a serious threat.

Surprised Issaquah resident discovers bear in garage

May 12, 2011

NEW — 4 p.m. May 12, 2011

State Department of Fish and Wildlife agents responded to a bear in a home Tuesday morning, after a surprised Issaquah woman discovered the animal pawing around inside a locked garage.

Issaquah police officers received a call at 11:43 a.m. about a bear inside a garage in the 5000 block of 228th Avenue Southeast, a tree-lined neighborhood near the Sammamish Family YMCA.

State wildlife agents reached the home at about noon and, as the team used Krispy Kreme doughnuts to bait a bear trap in the backyard, the animal escaped from the garage.

Department of Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Kim Chandler said the bear broke a window to enter the garage, possibly late Monday or earlier Tuesday, and then remained inside until residents heard thumping in the garage. The bear escaped from the same broken window.

The garbage container inside the garage likely attracted the animal.

Read more

Bears sighted near Issaquah’s skate park

April 29, 2011

NEW — 4 p.m. April 29, 2011

A mother bear and two cubs were seen on Rainer Trail by Issaquah’s skate park on Friday, according to an email Clark Elementary School sent to parents shortly after noon.

Clark staff reminded parents to discuss wildlife basics with their children, including:

  • Students should always walk to and from school in groups, preferably with at least one adult.
  • They should not interact with any unknown animal.
  • They should never feed an unknown animal.
  • They should report any unknown animal sighting to the school or to their parents.

Animal control experts have listed several additional precautions residents can take during this spring season when bear and coyote sightings are frequently reported:

  • Keep garbage and compost piles securely covered.
  • Keep pet food and water inside, and keep pets indoors or confined in a kennel or covered exercise yard.
  • Do not feed wildlife on the ground; keep wild birdseed in elevated feeders designed for birds, and clean up spilled seed from the ground.
  • Do not feed feral cats; coyotes prey on the cats and eat cat food left out for them.
  • Minimize ground cover vegetation near children’s play areas to avoid attracting rodents and small mammals that, in turn, attract coyotes.
  • Use noise-making devices when coyotes are seen. Check with local authorities regarding noise and weapons ordinances.

Off the Press

December 14, 2010

Good idea: live and let (local wildlife) live

Kathleen R. Merrill Press managing editor

Well, it’s been a month since some idiot shot a bear cub in the Issaquah Highlands and left him for dead. Charges haven’t yet been filed, but I am waiting for when they are.

And surely they will be. Because I would hate to think it’s legal to shoot a young bear cub and leave it moaning in pain, trapped in frigid water overnight because the bullet lodged itself in the bear’s spine, leaving it paralyzed. (The bear had to be put to sleep the next day because of his condition.)

And as if that weren’t bad enough, this moron shot a bear and left it wounded in a residential neighborhood. What if Mr. Bear wasn’t paralyzed, but just wounded and angry and then went on a rampage, hurting or killing someone? Then would charges be filed more quickly?

What if the shooter had missed the bear and hit someone’s child or grandparent or family pet?

I had a number of e-mails and phone calls from residents who were angry about the shooting. Several people said they had been enjoying bear sightings all summer — with many of them being a mother and two cubs.

“I hope this wasn’t one of my bears,” one woman told me. “I watched this one cub off and on for weeks. Sure, it was a pain to keep my garbage in the garage until garbage day, but I loved watching that bear climbing up tree trunks and hiking through the neighborhood.

Read more

« Previous PageNext Page »