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UPDATE: Bear tranquilized in Canyon Country after prompting 2 school lockdowns

Posted: May 6, 2013 10:18 a.m.
Updated: May 6, 2013 6:35 p.m.

This photo, provided by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Josh Dubin on Twitter shows the bear being relocated by California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials after being sedated.

When Fish & Wildlife Warden J.C. Healy got the call of a bear on the loose and grabbed his tranquilizer gun, he had no idea he would be saving the life of that bear by noon.

The bear hunt in Canyon Country began Monday morning with reports made by several residents to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station that they had seen a bruin on the prowl, said Sgt. Rich Cohen.

Shortly after 9 a.m., sheriff’s deputies responded to reports from worried Jakes Way-area residents who saw the bear near their apartment buildings.

That’s when sheriff’s officials contacted Healy and the state Fish & Wildlife office.

News of the sighting prompted the lockdown of two schools — Fair Oaks Ranch and Golden Oak community schools — and sent deputies into the area.

By 9:30 a.m., deputies reported seeing the bear first hand behind apartments at Jakes Way near Sierra Highway, Cohen said.

Within the hour, Healy — armed with his tranquilizer gun and plenty of tranquilizers — joined half a dozen deputies behind apartments at Jakes Way near Sierra Highway to monitor the bear’s movements, he said.

Healy estimated the young bear to be a male between three and four years old and weighing about 150 pounds.

It was a California black bear, the warden said, noting the bears can be black, brown or cinnamon-colored.

“He probably got pushed out (of his territory) by a larger male,” Healy said. “He’s not what we consider to be a garbage bear.”

Healy was referring to bears that frequent urban areas scavenging for food in garbage cans and Dumpsters.

“As soon as I pulled up, I followed the deputies to the site, and as we approached they were saying ‘Here he comes, here he comes.’”

That was Healy’s cue to start mixing up the right amount of tranquilizer to subdue a bear not yet fully grown.
“I started mixing some drugs really quick and got the darts ready really quick,” he said.

Healy placed the powder-and-water mixture in a syringe, inserted the syringe into the needle of the dart and loaded his gun.

“It’s kind of a slow process,” he said. For the bear, every second counted.

Healy prepared two tranquilizing darts.

In the time it took him to do so, the bear had moved again, he said.

Deputies, whom Healy said “did an outstanding job helping,” led him by car to the bear’s new location in a wash.
Healy jumped a fence to get into the wash and “crept down the hill quietly” to avoid startling it, he said.

“He was 15 to 20 yards away and he was moving towards me,” said Healy. “I was looking at him through the scope.”

Healy fired the dart.

“He took off running, which was an indication it was a good solid hit,” he said.

Despite the sedating affect of the dart’s drug, the bear was able to cover quite a bit of ground, ending up near Via Princessa and Jason Drive — which put him near the Highway 14 freeway.

But when it started moving toward the freeway, its life was in danger. Deputies were prepared to shoot and kill the bear if it looked like it was about to get on the freeway, Healy said.

“He was still able to move and he could still get on the freeway,” he said. “If he poses a threat to safety, at that point the option of lethal force is on the table.”

So Healy loaded up his gun a second time.

“He was going to make it up onto the freeway,” he said.

Healy took careful aim and fired the second tranquilizing dart — another solid hit.

“With the second dart he started walking again toward the freeway,” he said. “but then he just fell over and fell asleep.”

The bear collapsed within 10 yards of the freeway.

Once Healy and the deputies carried it to the Fish & Wildlife truck, the bear was fitted with an identifiable ear tag, Healy said.

Healy then drove it to a spot “deep inside” the Angeles National Forest, he said.

“The key issue was to return him to a natural and suitable habitat and let nature take its course,” he said.
Will he run into another bear? Probably, Healy said.

Could he run into the same bear that drove him out? Maybe, he said.

But that’s nature.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt






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