WALLA WALLA, Wash. – The Walla Walla District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reminds visitors to Corps-managed natural areas to exercise caution if wild animals are encountered. The potential for conflict between humans and threatening wildlife exists since the District hosts 8 million visitors annually at its eight water resource projects in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho in the Snake-Columbia rivers basin.
Warmer months are rearing seasons for young wildlife. A seemingly harmless walk on a nature trail can suddenly change to a dangerous encounter with wildlife. Young wildlife may not yet have enough experience with humans to avoid interactions. Parents of newborn or juvenile wildlife may attack humans to protect their young.
Visitors recently reported seeing a bear eating blackberries along secluded trails within the District’s Rooks Park along Mill Creek located about 2 miles east of Walla Walla city limits.
“It (the bear) didn’t give me a second glance and kept on eating when I saw it on the trail in front of me this morning (Monday, July 22). It didn’t seem to be afraid of people,” said Jake Shaw, a Corps employee who frequently runs along trails through Mill Creek Dam and Bennington Lake lands. “It was obvious the bear wasn’t going to go away, so I turned around and found another trail to run.”
Mill Creek Dam staff reported the encounter to state fish and game authorities, and encourage visitors to remember that most of the lands surrounding developed recreation areas are managed for wildlife habitat purposes.
“A wide variety of wildlife species can be found roaming along trails and lands near Mill Creek and Bennington Lake. That’s part of what makes it such a special place to visit,” said Chris Alford, Corps park ranger at Mill Creek. “We usually hear of a few bear-sightings on our lands each year during blackberry season. It’s best to be on the lookout for them and quietly go in a different direction if you see one.”
Visitors should be aware of their surroundings and familiar with appropriate responses to wildlife that pose a threat. Different species of threatening wildlife may require different types of responses.
If you encounter threatening wildlife on Corps lands and need immediate assistance, contact local law enforcement, state fish and game agency or Corps of Engineers officials, but remember that cell phones generally do not work in remote areas. Once you are safe, report encounters to local law enforcement officials.
If you encounter seemingly abandoned young wildlife, do not touch or attempt to rescue them. Leaving young animals alone while the adults forage nearby is part of their learning experience that will help them survive on their own. Leave the area quickly, and do not disturb young wildlife, as their mother is almost always nearby. Contact the state fish and game agency or local law enforcement if the animal appears sick or seriously injured, or you were threatened.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) provides suggestions for black bear encounters at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/bears.html. Information about encounters with other predator-species wildlife is available at WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/dangerous/.