Do Bears and Cougars Live on Bainbridge?

By Denise Briggs Potter

Oh my! With a bear prowling around Bainbridge this past June and the occasional reported cougar sighting, it’s hard to know if it’s safe to walk in the woods. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Sergeant Ken Balazs set our minds at ease with the facts.

“Bear sightings are rare,” Balazs said. “Other than the recent sighting, I haven’t received a call for a bear on Bainbridge in 10 years.” There is, however, a significant population of bears living near Bainbridge in the forested area between the Suquamish Reservation and Poulsbo.

During severe tide swings, bears have been known to swim across Agate Pass to Bainbridge. The bear spotted last June has probably already headed back to Suquamish. “They come out of hibernation, and they are looking for food sources,” Balazs said.

“A lot of people put up bird feeders in the spring, which is one of the biggest attractants to bears. If there’s no food source, they have no interest in human beings.” The WDFS occasionally gets a call about a cougar on Bainbridge, but the animal described turns out to be a bobcat, which is a much smaller creature with tufted ears.

“We have a pretty good bobcat population on the island, and they’ll go after chickens, cats and smaller dogs,” Balazs said. “People will sometimes mistake bobcats for cougars, because they are startled or aren’t used to seeing them.”