From Magnolia to Shoreline, agents stalk elusive bear
Urban Phantom is the name given by state wildlife agents to a 2-year-old black bear who was first seen in Magnolia late Saturday, and so far has eluded capture as he has been sighted also in Ballard and Shoreline.
Seattle Times staff reporter
If you see the bear
Remain calm. If possible, move away quietly when it's not looking. As you retreat, observe its behavior.
If it approaches you, stand up, wave your hands above your head and talk in a low voice. (Don't use the word "bear" because it might associate the word with food ... people feeding bears often say "here bear.")
Don't throw anything and avoid direct eye contact.
If you cannot move away safely or if the bear continues toward you, clap your hands, stomp your feet and yell. If in a group, stand shoulder-to-shoulder and raise and wave your arms. If it persists, use pepper spray if you have it.
Don't run unless safety is near and you are certain you can reach it. Climbing a tree generally is not recommended.
Source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: "Living with Wildlife"
American black bearRange: 25,000-30,000 bears live throughout Washington, except in the Columbia Basin.
Size: 4 ½ to 6 feet long; 270 to 590 pounds
Speed: Up to 35 mph
Color: Ranges from black to cinnamon; can have white blaze on chest.
Diet: Omnivores, but mostly vegetarian. In summer, they add ants, bees and grubs to their diets. While not active predators, they also might eat fish, voles, mice, squirrels, eggs, fawns and elk calves. Will forage campsites and garbage.
Hibernation: Enter a drowsy state October through April.
Attacks: Fewer than three dozen human deaths resulted from black-bear encounters in the 20th century. Black bears generally are timid; even mothers with cubs are unlikely to attack.
Sources: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, University of Washington, University of Michigan
Video | Tips for avoiding conflict with bears
Source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Give this teenager a lot of credit.
He's a black bear, estimated to be 2 years old. He's lost, confused, lonely, scared and likely was kicked out of his home by his mother.
But he's eluded being caught since first seen wandering in Magnolia at around 11 p.m. Saturday.
That's why he's been named the "Urban Phantom" by state Department of Fish and Wildlife agents led by Sgt. Kim Chandler.
It really is an appropriate name.
Urban Phantom has been chased in the middle of the night by four of the wildlife agents and a bear-scenting dog, plus 14 Seattle police in their cars with flashing lights.
He's been buzzed by TV choppers when he was seen Monday afternoon near Shoreline's Twin Ponds Park, near North 150th Street and First Avenue Northeast.
He's crossed Aurora Avenue North — sure, in the wee hours, but it still is Aurora Avenue — to where he was seen near Haller Lake at North 130th Street.
He managed to sneak around in the middle of Monday's rush hour, with cars traveling through busy arterials.
Or, Chandler says, maybe the bear, whose age is akin to that of a human teenager, decided rush hour was a good time to nap — maybe right behind those rhododendrons in your backyard.
In reality, Chandler says, Urban Phantom has much more to fear from people and civilization than the other way around.
Chandler grew exasperated Monday when reporters pestered him with questions about how dangerous Urban Phantom could be. Like, maybe he'd eat children?
"This is not a public-safety issue," Chandler said. In this state, he said, "Do you know how many little kids have been eaten by a black bear?"
The wildlife agent made a "zero" with his fingers.
"You have more chance of getting run over by the KIRO news van than being eaten by a bear," the agent said.
Chandler noted that the bear has been seen running through yards, rummaging through garbage cans and even putting his front paws on an SUV.
But was there even one call from people worried that Urban Phantom was going to attack them?
"Not one complaint," Chandler said. "This isn't a place where he wants to be."
There are as many as 30,000 black bears in the state, wildlife officials say, and in 2008, the agency fielded 881 calls about bear sightings in King County alone.
Black bears routinely come into conflict with rural and suburban homeowners — granted, not usually in Magnolia, Ballard, Crown Hill or Shoreline.
The first sighting of Urban Phantom was made by Kris and Albert Lee, who were arriving at their Magnolia home late Saturday after attending a fundraiser at their daughter's school.
"We saw something jump across the neighbor's flowerpots," Kris Lee said. "I wondered whose giant Newfoundland dog was out at this time of the night. We don't have any Newfoundlands in the neighborhood.
"Then it started taking its first steps, like a canter, dwoop, dwoop. I looked at my husband, and he looked at me."
Lee said she remembers saying, "Holy heck, that's a black bear!" and later thinking that, as a Catholic, she shouldn't have used the term "holy" in such a manner.
But that's what happens in the excitement of the moment.
Urban Phantom stayed in Magnolia until late Sunday.
But by Monday morning, he was causing much excitement in Ballard as the calls poured in to 911.
Chandler said he believes Urban Phantom arrived in Seattle from somewhere north of the city and followed the railroad tracks and the railroad bridge from Ballard right into Magnolia. He said he thinks the bear then decided to go back the same way.
The agent said he believes Urban Phantom likely is a young male who was kicked out of his home by his mom.
"She keeps the young males for two years, and then she's ready to breed again and they gotta find their own spot," Chandler said.
"But most good spots are already taken by big, adult males, and they'll kill the young guys, or at least beat them up pretty good."
So, Urban Phantom began his trek to find his territory, but, Chandler said, "he took a left turn when he should have turned right."
The wildlife agents and Seattle police chased Urban Phantom about four hours Saturday night, finally calling it quits at 3 a.m. Sunday.
Alex Raptis was one of the Ballard residents awakened by police cars and somebody telling Mishka, the wildlife agents' Finnish hunting dog who can track bears, "Look for the bear!"
Mishka did find Urban Phantom, but the bear outsmarted the agents and the dog by climbing over a high fence.
"They're like a house cat, extremely agile," Chandler said.
He said the bear led agents and officers on a chase from yard to yard, street to street, alley to alley that was "kinda like the Keystone Kops."
On a couple of occasions, "we got nearly run over when he'd come squirting out [from between] houses." Chandler never could properly aim his air gun with a tranquilizer dart.
Urban Phantom weighs about 125 pounds and should grow to at least twice that weight, Chandler said.
He said the bear really doesn't want anything to do with humans, but, if it turns out he's right in front of you, DON'T LOOK HIM STRAIGHT IN THE EYE.
That's being aggressive in bear culture.
But you can wave your arms "to make yourself look bigger" and in a low voice say, "Everything is fine, take it easy."
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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