The South Whidbey bear that has earned the nickname “Whidbey the Pooh” on social media appears to be sticking around longer than expected — although he is not likely the culprit for all the berry-laden scat that has been photographed over the past two months.
An image containing what looks like bear tracks in the sand was sent Sept. 15 to Ralph Downes, an enforcement officer for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The photo was taken on the shore near Brighton Beach Road, about half a mile up the coast from the Clinton ferry terminal.
Downes said he has been surprised that the ursid, who is suspected to be a young male black bear, has not yet left the island since it is getting toward the end of mating season.
“They have minds of their own. The same thing could be said about Bruiser,” he said, referring to a bull elk that lives on North Whidbey. “I’m really surprised that he’s been with us for nine years.”
Downes is confident, however, that the Whidbey bear will not join the lonely elk in becoming a permanent fixture of the island and will soon be making a return to the mainland when his search for companionship is exhausted.
That hasn’t stopped excited residents from emailing Downes nearly two dozen suspected bear poop photos, more than he’s ever received before. Within the space of a few days, he’s received photos from various locations around Whidbey, from Coupeville to Clinton.
“If you tracked the bear by the berry scat, it would be a track star running up and down the island,” he said.
And there are other critters who consume berries that could be responsible for the droppings. Downes pointed out previously that coyotes, being opportunists, will go for berries. Deer also enjoy berries. Downes explained that deer scat will take on a lot of different shapes and sizes throughout the year.
The South Whidbey bear continued to make himself scarce and has not caused any issues that Downes is aware of. He surmised that the bear will soon leave the island by the same way it found it — by swimming.
“Perhaps it walks to the water’s edge from time to time and ponders, as a bear must, how long is that swim?” he said.