Banner Forest expected to be reopened Monday

After unsuccessful attempts to trap a bear that reportedly attacked a bicyclist in Banner Forest Heritage Park earlier this month, the popular park will likely reopen for human use next week.

“My understanding is that we will open the park sometime Monday,” said Brian Hauschel, a maintenance supervisor with Kitsap County’s Facilities, Parks and Recreation Department, explaining that he is scheduled to meet with state Fish and Wildlife officials prior to opening the park.

Hauschel said Fish and Wildlife had “no luck whatsoever” in trapping the bear, and the suspicion is the animal involved in the Sept. 2 attack has left the area.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Marian Snyder confirmed that officials from her office were scheduled to meet with county park officials yesterday about reopening the park, and that no animal had been caught as of Thursday afternoon.

According to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, a 60-year-old Bremerton man called 911 shortly after noon on Sept 2 after discovering South Kitsap resident Anthony Blasioli riding out of the forest, “bleeding and asking for help.”

Blasioli, 51, said he had been riding his bike with his two dogs on a trail in the park when he was reportedly attacked by a bear, suffering “lacerations to his face, neck, and back, and had severe damage to his shoulder and arm,” according to WDFW Capt. Dan Brinson.

Brinson said the park was quickly closed to the public after the attack on Blasioli — whose condition has steadily improved after being taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma — and at least five, baited traps were set up around the park.

However, only a few days after the attack Brinson said it was already unlikely that the animal would be captured.

“Our best chance of catching the animal is within the first three days,” Brinson said Sept. 5, explaining that if a bear had been caught and determined to be the animal involved in the attack, it would have been killed.

“Given the nature of the attack, we don’t have the choice of relocating it to another area,” he said, explaining that the bear was considered dangerous because it had “demonstrated a lack of fear of humans, and there is no location in the state where we could release it and guarantee it will not come into contact with humans.”

South Kitsap resident Rex Nelson, a frequent user of Banner Forest and a member of its stewardship committee, said he was very glad it will be opening soon.

“God, I miss that place,” Nel-son said, adding, however, that he was not surprised to hear of a bear encounter in the forest, which he said has about 15 miles of trails within its one-square-mile area.

“I live half a mile from the park, and I’ve seen a bear crossing the road right in front of my house, like 60 feet away,” he said.

Nelson said that his personal experience with the animals so far has been a “I don’t bother you, you don’t bother me” type of arrangement.

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