The forum is part of an overall effort to connect with the community and “temper the current bear problem,” said Watkin. Two dogs in Wilmington were attacked and killed by bears recently, one on May 31 and one on June 22. Both incidents occurred at residences in the general vicinity of Chimney Hill, with the first attack occurring a short distance from Haystack Road and the second on Ray Hill Road.
This past weekend, two incidents involving bears occurred in the same area. In the first incident, a young sow found herself in a garage on Arctic Circle in Chimney Hill. “She did not want to leave the open garage, as she had access to a container of black sunflower seed,” said Watkin. Ultimately Watkin used two techniques, pepper spray and shell crackers, to get the bear to leave the garage.
Then on Sunday, at the same home where the first dog attack occurred, a bear was seen loitering in the yard despite not having access to garbage or any other type of food in the yard. Watkin was out of the area when the call about the bear came in, but he contacted a local houndsman who got to the residence several hours later. Two leashed hounds were deployed to track the bear’s scent, but because time had passed, the hounds did not get a good track.
“The intended outcome in this situation was to pursue the bear out of the immediate area,” said Watkin, “by essentially giving it an adverse experience and hoping that it moves on. This did not happen, though, largely because of a stale track.”
On Wednesday night, the hounds were run again in Chimney Hill. This time, the hounds were able to track the sow. “An exchange took place between the bear and the dogs,” said Watkin. “It is hoped that negative experiences such as this might encourage the bear(s) to move out of that immediate area.”
Watkin stressed that the use of hounds does not in any way alleviate the need for all valley residents to be extremely vigilant about preventing access to outdoor food sources, including garbage and birdseed.
“The hounds can be a useful tool in moving bears out of residential areas that persist after feed is no longer available,” said Watkin. “If food attractants continue to be made available, the likelihood of bears returning to an area is increased despite any efforts with the hounds.”