The old saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure. In the Cascade foothills, though, that treasure belongs to bears.
If the bears around North Bend, Issaquah and Snoqualmie aren't pillaging trash cans, they're eating from bird feeders.
"This one pound bird feeder will hold about 2,000 calories. A pound of blueberries is about 500 calories. So, where are you going to spend your time?" said WDFW bear biologist Rich Beausoleil.
Beausoleil is five years into a comprehensive study and reports that bears in the I-90 corridor are dying early. Trash and bird seed attract them toward humans and then frightened people shoot them.
If they don't get shot, they just get really, really, really fat.
"The average size of bears in Washington, for a female, is 150 pounds. Bears that inhabit neighborhoods and take advantage of trash and bird feeders, females are 300 pounds," Beausoleil said. "The average size of a male bear in Washington is 250 pounds. We've seen bears on the ridge in Issaquah in North bend that are 450 pounds. These bears have become accustomed to people food and they're being rewarded for taking advantage of it."
Bears can smell trash from about two miles away.
Beausoleil wants King County to transition to bear-proof cans, not the bear-resistant cans currently used. He says bears have figured those out and they're not working. He also wants homeowners associations to ban bird feeders.
"People are intentionally or unintentionally feeding bears and that's resulting in the death of bears, especially for newborn cubs," Beausoleil said. "While you think they're harmless, and in a lot of cases they are, your next door neighbor might feel threatened, pick up a weapon and defend themselves."