Officers capture black bear in tree in backyard of Pierce County home

A tranquilizer dart ended a young adult black bear’s romp around Pierce County. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said they received several reports of bear sightings since the weekend in the Tacoma area.

Officials captured the bear in the backyard of a home in Lakewood.

Wednesday morning started as usual for Madison Dye and her baby at their home in Lakewood. She said their morning was interrupted by a loud knock on the front door.

"Lady walks up, ‘There’s a bear in your yard!’ And she had a very thick accent, and I was like, ‘A bird? Is that what you said?’ She goes, ‘No, a bear! A bear!’ And I was like ‘Okay,’" said Dye.

Hard to believe, Dye said she checked her backyard to see for herself.

"And, I was just like, "Oh my God! There’s a bear in my yard!’" said Dye.

The young adult black bear was in Dye’s backyard tree for about 20 minutes as next-door neighbor Angela Diaz watched from her window.

"I kind of just double took and rubbed my eyes because I was like, ‘Did the neighbors get a new dog or something? Like, he’s pretty big and fluffy,’" said Diaz.

The fluffy animal then hopped the fence for shade in Diaz’s tree. Lakewood Police arrived at the home along with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. They loaded just enough of a sedative into a tranquilizer dart to put the bear to sleep when it was shot. The officers climbed atop a child’s playhouse in Diaz’s yard to get in closer range of the bear in the tree.

"An officer actually climbed into the tree and was, like, shaking the branches around to make the bear fall into the tarp that they were holding," said Diaz. "They called me out into the backyard and said that I could touch it. So, I petted it. Its paws were huge."

The spectacle brought dozens of people to the Lakewood neighborhood as they watched officials place the bear in a culvert trap before taking it away. Everyone had the same question.

"Where did it come from? We’re like, in the middle of the city," said Diaz.

Jennifer Becar, a communications manager with Fish & Wildlife, said the department did not immediately identify the bear’s gender. She said they believed the bear possibly came from Titlow Park in Tacoma.

"It was likely that this bear was kind of kicked out by the sow — by its mother — and it was on its way to finding its own place in the world. And every now and then, when that happens, that animal can take a wrong turn," said Becar.

She explained bears taking wrong turns is not uncommon for urban and suburban areas, especially during spring when wildlife start moving around.

"Anywhere these bears can find some space, green belts behind these suburban areas can provide habitat for that wildlife," said Becar. "As the human population is increasing, and we need more homes for all those people, we’re becoming more and more proximate to the homes for all the wildlife, as well. So, it is really important for everyone to learn about how we can coexist with this wildlife."

WDFW said black bears are the most common and widely distributed bears in North America and are found throughout most of Washington. The department offers safety tips to prevent encounters with bears on its website. The tips include not feeding bears and managing garbage.

"One of the best ways that the public can help protect their property, protect themselves and protect these black bears, as well, is by securing things in their backyard on their properties that attracts those bears. So, garbage cans, bird feeders, pet food are some of the really common attractants," said Becar.

WDFW also outlines specific safety instructions if a bear is in close contact and threatening to attack:

  • Stop, remain calm, and assess the situation. If the bear seems unaware of you, move away quietly when it’s not looking in your direction. Continue to observe the animal as you retreat, watching for changes in its behavior.
  • If a bear walks toward you, identify yourself as a human by standing up, waving your hands above your head, and talking to the bear in a low voice. If you have bear spray, get it out of the holster and remove the safety.
  • If you cannot safely move away from the bear or a black bear continues toward you, scare it away by clapping your hands, stomping your feet, and yelling. If you are in a group, stand shoulder-to shoulder and raise and wave your arms to appear intimidating. The more a black bear persists, the more aggressive your response should be. If you have bear spray, use it.
  • Do not run from the bear. Bears can run up to 35 mph and running may trigger an attack. Climbing a tree is generally not recommended as an escape from an aggressive black bear, as black bears are adept climbers and may follow you up a tree.

Becar explained the sedative typically wears off within two hours. Fish & Wildlife took the young adult black bear to the North Cascades to get its bearings in a more familiar habitat.

"And [this] also makes sure that the bear is wide awake at the time it’s relocated so that I can run off, and it’s awake and aware of where it’s at, and it can go do its thing out in the woods now," said Becar.


Olympic marmot conservation plan: Could reintroducing wolves save the species?

Video captures cougar chasing pets, coming within feet of family in WA backyard

Inslee issues emergency proclamation over spongy moth infestation

Bird flu detected in wild animals in Washington

To get the best local news, weather and sports in Seattle for free, sign up for the daily FOX 13 Seattle newsletter.