Bear captured near Clark College

By Bob Albrecht, Columbian Staff Reporter

Published:

Updated: June 1, 2011, 7:22 PM

 
photoThis black bear took a liking to a bird feeder Sunday evening at the Fisher’s Landing residence of Todd Hemphill and Leslie McMillan. After dining for a few minutes, he wandered back into a heavily forested ravine.

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People were quick to connect the capture of a black bear in central Vancouver early Wednesday to the ones from Yakima trying to negotiate a move to town.

Yes, the bears have come to town. No, not the minor league baseball-playing versions.

We’re talking about a real, sharp-toothed, hungry bear found up a tree near Clark College — almost certainly the same bear that just days earlier showed up in the backyard of a Fisher’s Landing home.

“He’s been moving through town since Sunday,” said Capt. Murray Schlenker of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “He’s been all over this end of the county.”

The black bear weighing about 125 pounds was spotted halfway up a 100-foot fir tree at 5:45 a.m. Wednesday at the intersection of East Mill Plain Boulevard and Fort Vancouver Way, right in the middle of an area bustling on weekday mornings with students heading to Clark College and Hudson’s Bay High School.

The tree was slightly more than a well-hit baseball’s distance from the site of a proposed stadium that the Class A Bears may someday call home.

Fish and Wildlife led the effort to capture the bear, with help from the Vancouver police, fire and public works divisions.

About two hours after the bear was spotted nestling into a comfy spot in the tree, it was struck by a tranquilizer dart and dropped 50 feet into a net tied around the base of the tree.

The bear was loaded into an enclosed silver drum and was to be released into the wild. Schlenker said the department has agreed upon “release points” with the U.S. Forest Service to set captured animals free.

Tranquilizers have varying effects on animals, so it was not immediately known whether the animal would slumber for three minutes or an hour. What was clear is that the bear would be just fine.

“Everything went well this morning,” Schlenker said.

After a larger bear was spotted roaming a field Wednesday near Tualatin Elementary School in Oregon, social media users had fun with the bears’ in-town appearances, proclaiming them #BearWatch2011. Short of a phenomenon, it is the result of a wet and cool spring that has prevented typical sources of a bear’s diet from ripening, forcing them out of the woods to look for food. Bird feeders and cat and dog food grab the animals’ attention, Schlenker said.

The bear captured in Vancouver was reportedly spotted this week meandering through an apartment complex. It is not known how old the bear is.

Schlenker said the bear’s decision to climb into the tree made it easier capture than if he’d been cornered on the ground somewhere. He said the bear had claws, a full set of teeth and an assuredly less-than-friendly disposition.

“That’s our best bet to get an immobilization dart into him,” Schlenker said of the bear’s position in a tree. “He’s dangerous in every sense.”

The green net tied around the tree was described by Schlenker as trampolinelike. The tumbling bear landed on the net, and then rolled off and onto the ground. The bear was then ushered into the drum.

“He was actually sleeping while we were putting the net under the tree,” Schlenker said.

The bear caused no school closures, and traffic was able to move mostly unaffected through the intersection near the tree. Onlookers watched the two-hour scene unfold from across the street.