Samantha Martin and her 2-year-old were watching a movie when the little girl excitedly went out into the backyard.
The Redmond, Washington, mom didn’t initially know why her toddler, Juniper, went outside. They have a rule that no one goes out, even in their backyard, because they’ve spotted coyotes and bobcats lurking on the property at night.
“I go out there and next thing I know she screams excitedly, ‘That’s a bear,’” Martin told McClatchy News in a message. “And just started running towards it, that’s when I noticed it as well.”
A small bear cub was eating from their bird feeder after the bottom of it broke off, Martin said. The 2-year-old may have been trying to pet the bear, her mom said.
“I just panicked because it looked like a cub and I didn’t know if mama bear was gonna pop up and defensively attack because my daughter was chasing the baby bear,” she said.
Martin acted quickly. She sprinted after her child and was panicked and yelling the entire time, Martin said.
She bolted back into the house with her daughter and quickly locked the door behind them.
“Thankfully we are all OK,” Martin said. “Juniper has been going outside every morning now though asking where the bear went.”
Bears start to come out of hibernation in early April, and they’re hungry when they emerge, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said. Some bears can lose up to 40% of their body weight during hibernation.
“When they emerge, natural foods may be scarce, and bears often look for the easiest source of high-protein food, which may include bird feeders, pet food, and garbage,” Fish and Wildlife said.
Wildlife officials said homeowners should remove food items like bird feeders from their yard so bears aren’t attracted to them.
In Washington, people and bears have started to interact more as people move into bear territory, according to Fish and Game.
If a black bear attacks, people should fight back and aim for the eyes. If someone comes into close contact with a bear, they should stop and remain calm.
If the bear continues to walk toward the person, they should wave their hands above their head and talk in a low voice. Running from a bear usually isn’t a good idea because they can run up to 35 miles per hour.
“Most confrontations with bears are the result of attractants like garbage and bird feeders,” wildlife officials said. “In the wilderness, it is recommended that people make noise as they travel to avoid surprising a bear at close range.”