Bears spark complaints in east Washougal

Residents report them rummaging through trash cans

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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Bears are irking east Washougal homeowners who live inside the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is fielding complaints from people who reported bears rummaging through their trash, according to enforcement Officer David Hughes.

“It’s pretty common this time of year, especially in that area,” he said.

Hughes spoke with Barb Taylor at her home on Southeast Hidden Falls Road. She said that on several occasions black bears tipped over her dumpster and spewed trash around the yard. She and her husband tried putting a bar over the dumpster, but the bears bent the lid back. Then they used a chain lock, and now they’ve upgraded to a bigger lock with a steel plate on top of one of the lids. If the problem persists, Taylor said she might build fencing around the dumpster.

The activity was captured on a game camera that Taylor installed in mid-May, after the bears first started visiting her property.

The bears have been a nuisance for Taylor’s neighbors, as well, and reportedly destroyed someone’s shed.

Around this time of year, bears are more active and looking for quick, easy meals, Hughes said. They have an incredible sense of smell that leads them to people’s homes.

He advises people to put away anything that might attract bears, such as trash cans, bird feeders, barbecues and compost piles.

Although the bear might return, it will learn that there’s nothing to eat there and eventually move on, Hughes said. Homeowners should keep items tempting to bears inside for at least two weeks, maybe a month.

“We can’t set a trap every time a bear gets into a trash can,” Hughes said.

Once summer berries begin ripening — offering sustenance for hungry bears — complaints reported to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife typically wind down, he added.