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Officials stalk bear suspected in recent mauling

Banner Forest Heritage Park was quickly closed and five traps set after a South Kitsap man was reportedly attacked by a bear while mountain biking Sunday afternoon, according to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Capt. Dan Brinson said that “not a lot has happened” since the traps were scattered throughout the 635-acre park near Olalla Valley and Banner roads, explaining that no bear had been captured as of late Wednesday.

“Our best chance of catching the animal is within the first three days,” Brinson said, describing the traps as large, culvert-type pipes that are baited with bags of pastries and fruits. “If the animal pulls on the bag, the trap door closes behind it.”

He said each trap is loaded on a trailer so if an animal is captured, it can be easily hauled away.

If a bear is trapped and determined to be the attacker, Brinson said it will be killed.

“Given the nature of the attack, we don’t have the choice of relocating it to another area,” he said, explaining that this particular bear is considered dangerous because it has “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 Anthony Blasioli, 51, was riding his bike with his two dogs on a trail in Banner Forest Sunday shortly after noon when he was reportedly attacked by a bear.

“He sustained lacerations to his face, neck, and back, and had severe damage to his shoulder and arm,” Brinson said, explaining that Blasioli used his bicycle at one point to fend off the bear, ultimately managing to free himself. “Apparently he mustered the strength to ride out of the forest.”

According to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, a 60-year-old Bremerton man first called 911 when he saw Blasioli riding out of the forest, “bleeding and asking for help.”

The witness said the victim was “missing a chunk from his shoulder,” and only one of his dogs was with him.

Another witness, a 41-year-old Tacoma man, told deputies that he had been riding in the forest and found a bike helmet covered in blood, and saw both a dog and a bear nearby.

He said the bear was not charging him but did not seem afraid of him, and he then “dropped everything and rode away.”

Brinson said such attacks on humans by bears are “almost unheard of,” and said in his recollection there have only been a “handful of bear attacks ever in Washington state,” and only one fatality that he knew of.

“However, it is not uncommon for us to get calls of bear sightings in Kitsap County and west Pierce County,” he said.

Since Sunday’s attack, Brinson said his office has received numerous calls from citizens not wanting the bear to be killed or harmed.

“In the case of nuisance bears, such as those spotted rummaging through people’s garbage, for instance, and that haven’t shown any aggression — those bears are relocated if trapped,” he said, explaining that the bear in Sunday’s attack would be considered aggressive, not merely a nuisance.

“If it is trapped and we can reasonably conclude it’s the bear that attacked him, (it will be euthanized),” he said, adding that before that happens, his agency will “look into every possible clue we can find” to confirm they trapped the attacking bear.

Brinson said earlier reports that the animal was a “sow with cubs” were unconfirmed.

“The victim said he got close enough to the animal that he could determine it was a male,” he said.

Banner Forest remains closed to the public and both entrances have been barricaded.

For more information, call the Kitsap County Facilities, Parks and Recreation Department at 337-5350.

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