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Bear-Feeding Case Will Go To Court In A First For Washington

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network

A 70-year-old Ilwaco, Washington, woman has been criminally charged for allegedly feeding bears at her house on Washington's Long Beach peninsula. It is believed to be the first time someone has been prosecuted under a relatively new law against feeding large wild carnivores.

Doris Parks denied the charges and said she's unafraid of the black bears that routinely visit her house, not even when they tromp right across her balcony like they own the place.

"They're gentle giants," Parks said. "They're wussies."

State wildlife officers investigated the Swiss immigrant after getting complaints she was attracting bears who behaved aggressively. Parks puts out food for animals, but denies intentionally feeding the bears.

"I feed stray cats," Parks said. "I feed the crows. I have four seagulls."

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police maintains the state can prove otherwise.

"She's had enough warnings that she's attracting animals, whether her intent is to feed cats or whatnot, she's still on the hook," Deputy Chief Mike Cenci said.

All this has ended badly for some of the bears involved. Since last fall, wildlife agents have removed seven black bears from the neighborhood and euthanized five of them. From Doris Parks' viewpoint, the state "murdered" the bears.

Parks will be arraigned on May 28 on two misdemeanor counts.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.