Pair of bear captures tickle Oregon students

June 2, 2011 - 3:14 PM
Bear School

An adult black bear runs through Tualatin Elementary School property Wednesday, June 1, 2011, in Tualatin, Ore. Police in Tualatin just south of Portland tracked the bear roaming in a wooded area near the elementary school. The bear was later caught near the school. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Did Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo get separated? While the children in one town were watching the capture of a black bear outside their school, residents in a town 20 miles north were witnessing the apprehension of another.

No, the bears do not appear to know each other. But together, they provided hours of entertainment Wednesday in Tualatin, a Portland suburb, and in Vancouver, Wash., just across the Columbia River from Portland.

At about 5:45 a.m., a 200-pound black bear was spotted in a field near Tualatin Elementary School, prompting the cancellation of classes. Students who arrived before classes were canceled stayed indoors and studied what officials called a "bear curriculum," discussing how fast bears can run and what it takes to tranquilize them.

Bryan Peterson watched the bear walk through his backyard.

"Then he walked through the neighborhood and scoped it out," Peterson told The Oregonian.

For several hours, the male bear eluded capture, but was finally struck with a tranquilizer dart and fell asleep in a tree.

When he failed to fall into a waiting net, a firefighter climbed to the animal and fashioned a harness that allowed crews to lower him 60 feet to the ground. The bear will be released in the coastal mountains, the Oregonian reported.

At about the same time, officials in Vancouver were dealing with a 125-pound black bear up a tree near a high school and Clark College.

That bruin was first seen in Vancouver on Sunday, when it dined on the contents of a bird feeder in a backyard. He eventually wandered into a forested ravine.

"He's been moving through town since Sunday," Capt. Murray Schlenker, of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told The Columbian newspaper. "He's been all over this end of the county."

The bear was spotted again Wednesday morning, halfway up a 100-foot fir tree in a busy neighborhood. After the bear was struck with a tranquilizer dart, it dropped 50 feet into a trampoline-like net, rolled onto the ground, and was then loaded into a silver drum to be released into the wild, The Columbian reported.

Onlookers watched from across the street as the two-hour capture unfolded.

Wildlife officials say bears may be showing up in inhabited areas because the cold, wet weather has made food scarce in higher elevations.