“The kindest of bears” is back in the desert after a fruitless search for companionship that took him to 11 different islands, including Lopez.
The adolescent black bear made regional headlines after showing up in places bears hadn’t been seen in decades.
The bear’s five-week trek apparently began on Camano Island in late April.
The bear made the long cold swim to nearby Whidbey Island, where Coupeville residents reported first seeing it on April 29.
Several residents of North Whidbey spotted him as he traveled the island over the next two days.
Ralph Downes, a law enforcement officer with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the bear then swam across Deception Pass to Fidalgo Island. From there he swam to Guemes, Cyprus, Blakely, Orcas, Shaw, San Juan, Lopez and Decatur Islands before returning to the mainland.
Downes said it was likely the bear was looking for a female to hang out with.
“I think he was looking, but I don’t think he was lost,” he said.
The bear was spotted in the Padilla Bay area before visiting more populated areas of Burlington, which is when wildlife experts became concerned. He climbed a tree behind the Home Depot and swam across the river to Mount Vernon.
On Saturday, Fish and Wildlife officers tranquilized the bear and moved it. Downes said he hadn’t been able to see the animal first hand, but fellow law enforcement officers were surprised by the bear’s gentleness and good nature.
“They said it was the nicest bear they had ever met,” he said.
In fact, Downes said the bear showed no aggression towards anyone during its long trek. The only problems he caused were breaking a few bird feeders to access the seeds and digging through a trash can or two.
Downes initially estimated the pubescent bear at around 300 pounds, but other officers guessed it weighed around 250 pounds when captured. The difference, Downes speculated, could be due to all the calories burned on his travels.
The bear’s travels took him on a big loop, Downes said, and eventually got trapped a few miles from where he started. He was sent home and released into the wilderness of northern Snohomish County.
Downes said he hoped the bear would find a companion in the wild to quell his wanderlust.