CAMAS — A string of recent bear sightings prompted Camas schools to suspend off-campus activities at Round Lake in Lacamas Park.
Camas High School Principal Steve Marshall made the announcement Thursday morning in an email to parents and people connected with the school. The school also has moved cross-country practices away from Round Lake.
Camas residents occasionally see raccoons, bobcats and bears within city limits, but — to the best of Marshall’s knowledge — students haven’t encountered any of the animals until two weeks ago.
“So, although we take precautions to make sure our activities are well-organized and supervised, it is in our students’ best interest that we steer clear of Round Lake for the next few weeks,” he said.
Twice in the last two weeks cross-country meets were moved from Round Lake after a small bear was sighted.
Several folks who were on the trail midday Thursday said they weren’t concerned about the bear or hadn’t heard of it before a Columbian reporter mentioned it.
Elisabeth Massie said she uses the trail a few times a week. She hadn’t heard about the bear sightings but wasn’t too concerned.
“I’m not too scared of black bears,” she said.
Kathleen Huld of Camas had heard about the bear but still brought her 2-year-old twin granddaughters to the playground and Round Lake.
“I’m not sure why I’m not concerned,” she said.
She’s lived in the area for 32 years and has never heard of that kind of thing happening before. She comes to Round Lake twice a week with her twin granddaughters, Ava and Adalie Huld.
Craig Bartlett, spokesman for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, said his organization believes a young bear has moved into the area to prepare for the winter. Officials have been working with the Camas Police Department to track the bear for a few weeks now.
“The bear seems to be moving around a lot and we’re hoping that folks can give us a call if they see it,” he said.
Fish & Wildlife has a trap available but wants to have a good idea where the bear is before using it. Much of the 331-acre Lacamas Park is undeveloped and heavily wooded. There are quite a few places for the bear to go, Bartlett said.
“We don’t want to just be trapping stray dogs,” he said.
Camas police Sgt. Scot Boyles said the bear or bears haven’t been aggressive.
“There’s no reason for anybody to be concerned,” he said.
Most of the sightings have been near Round Lake but a few have been across Northwest Lake Road near the Heritage Trail, he said.
If the bear is sighted, people are asked to call 911.
Here's the full text of the email by Camas High School Principal Steve Marshall:
Dear CHS Parents & Community Members:
As you have likely already heard, there have been two bear sightings in as many weeks at Round Lake Park. The most recent sighting was this past Tuesday afternoon. Round Lake is a popular recreation area in our community and its walking and running trails are also used by Camas High School Physical Education classes and Cross Country teams. Because student safety is our top priority, I wanted to make parents aware that we have taken the following steps to ensure the safety of our students:
§ Our Physical Education classes have suspended their off-campus run/walks around Round Lake Park.
§ No Cross Country practices will take place at Round Lake. As mentioned above, these two sightings coincided with our two final Cross Country meets of the season, both of which were relocated to Heritage Trail. Also, an upcoming CSD Middle School Cross Country meet, scheduled for October 8th, has also been moved from the Round Lake course.
Camas High School has used Round Lake as an off-campus site for science and fitness activities for years. Because Camas is a blended suburban-rural area, residents occasionally still see wildlife such as raccoons, bobcats, and now apparently bears within the city limits. However, to the best of my knowledge, until two weeks ago no CHS student had encountered any of these animals. So, although we take precautions to make sure our activities are well-organized and supervised, it is in our students’ best interest that we steer clear of Round Lake for the next few weeks. The latest word is that the Clark County Parks Department has decided not to close the park, but has posted signs in an effort to inform users that there have been recent bear sightings near the trails. Once this advisory has been lifted or we receive confirmation from the Department of Fish and Wildlife that the bear has been captured or migrated out of the area, our district will discuss when and how to safely resume our use of this park.
Camas High School