By EMILY GARLAND
The black bear treed in a Kennydale backyard in late April was released into the wilds of the east side of the North Cascades Wednesday.
The nearly 3-year-old, 250-pound male bear had been recovering at PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood since last month’s surgery fixed a dislocated hip and fractured thigh bone.
The trip into the mountains took a little over three hours. The bear made the trip in a bear trap, or a large tube on wheels on a trailer.
A group of humans accompanied the Kennydale Bear, including Bruce Richards, Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife officer; a PAWS naturalist; Dr. John Huckabee, a PAWS wildlife veterinarian, and a couple students.
Although the mountain pass was snowy, Huckabee says the release went well.
Richards opened the bear’s trap facing the cars and Huckabee says the bear “moved away from us as fast as he could.”
“He took off for safety up the hill just adjacent to the road, and he didn’t look back at us until he was safe enough away,” Huckabee says.
The bear was clipped with an ear-tag transmitter so Fish and Wildlife and PAWS can keep track of him.
A PAWS naturalist will check on the bear within the next two weekends, as will Richards.
The bear is doing well, but Huckabee says he’s still recovering from a fall from the Kennydale tree, which likely caused his injuries.
The fall happened after a rope slipped from the bear’s leg. Richards, the Fish and Wildlife officer, had also injected the bear with two tranquilizer darts.
The bear was first spotted by a Kennydale woman who noticed the bear in her yard when she went outside to tend to her barking dog.
“He’s still healing,” Huckabee says. “He’ll be healing until really the next few months.”
But Huckabee says the bear needs a wild habitat to heal completely.
“He needs to be out there,” he says. “He needs to be moving, he needs to be climbing, he needs to be doing his bear things.”
At PAWS, the bear had access to three 10-by-10-feet concrete runs, complete with logs, a pool and trails of honey. When the space got too small, Huckabee knew he was ready to be released. He tested the bear’s mobility by enticing him with honey.
The bear was the 25th or 30th bear Huckabee has treated, and the 51st treated at PAWS Wildlife Center. But aside from a mama bear who didn’t recover, Huckabee says the Kennydale Bear is the oldest and largest bear the center has treated. He also thinks the Kennydale Bear was the first wild bear to receive his specific kind of hip and leg surgery. His mended hip and leg could break down in time, which is why he will be monitored.
But the Kennydale Bear is doing great so far. The bear’s young age is in his favor, Huckabee says,
“At this point we have every expectation that he will make a full recovery and do well for a long time,” he says.
Emily Garland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 255-3484, ext. 5052.