Bear remains found on Matia Island

For the second time in a year, a bear was found in the San Juan Islands.

This time, the sighting was only remains.

At around 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 8, county officials found the bones of a bear on Matia Island. They suspect the bear drowned when swimming around the islands.

According to Randy Gaylord, the county coroner, an 11-year-old boy, visiting with his family from Montana, reported possible human bones while kayaking. The boy thought he saw a human rib, hand bones and a skull tangled in kelp along the water line of a rock near Matia.

Gaylord said mistaking the species’ bones makes sense.

“Bear claws are very similar to human hands,” he said, “but, of course, the skull is very different.”

Most of the remains included bones and some flesh, he added, and the date of the bear’s death could not be determined. The remnants were buried at sea to avoid others mistaking the bones for humans.

In May 2017, authorities believe a black bear swam to Orcas Island, where the roughly 5-foot, 250-pound mammal ate from garbage cans and bird feeders for about a week. It was captured on June 8 and taken to the mainland.

Gaylord said this is the first time he has been called to examine bear remains.

“I suppose if a bear could make it to Orcas, there could be times when a bear did not make it too,” he said.

Matia is about 9 miles north of Orcas.