SEATTLE - How does he do it? How does a 100-plus pound wild animal roam the streets and move about freely through the middle of the Northwest's largest city? And why can't wildlife officers catch him?
Those questions are being asked all over Seattle as it enters its fourth day of the bear on the run saga.
State Fish & Wildlife officers are truly amazed at this animal. It moved from South from Everett, got spotted in Edmonds, apparently followed railroad tracks and trestles into Magnolia and Ballard, then turned north, crossed Highway 99, pushed all the way to the Seattle/Shoreline border and has now apparently crossed Interstate 5 and nosed into Shoreline.
One officer saw it walk on top of a chain link fence like a housecat. I saw it jump a six foot fence like it wasn't there. It seems to just move from yard to yard, avoiding dogs and crowds, and just keeps moving.
Officers say they need to tree it or get it locked in somebody's garage to get a tranquilizer dart in it. Traps won't work because it's a bear on the move. Those are only effective when a bear makes a habit of visiting the same place over and over. And now it seems chasing the bear doesn't work.
"All we've been trying to do is help it get out of a place it doesn't want to be," said Wildlife Sgt. Kim Chandler. "Now we understand maybe it doesn't need our help."
So the plan now is to monitor the reports of sightings and hope the evasive little bear finds its own way out of the concrete jungle and into the woods. Chasing it, Chandler says, only increases the chances it will run into traffic and get hit.
The strategy may already be paying off. The bear was last sighted near a school in Shoreline, indicating it is continuing to move north and east toward the edge of the urban boundaries. It could be that bears, which are being forced out of their natural homes by urban sprawl, are learning how to pass through cities on their migrations, and maybe people are beginning to learn how to stay out of the way and get used to seeing them hop a fence or two on their way out of town.