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Wayward bear released back into wild after pursuit in Duarte and Monrovia

June 6, 2010 |  2:11 pm

In a four-hour man-versus-beast pursuit, officers in the air and on the ground followed a 275-pound black bear as it roamed the streets of Duarte and Monrovia early Sunday morning and caused the closure of the 210 Freeway before it was finally caught and returned to the wild, authorities said.

The ursine adventure began around 2 a.m. when the male California black bear was spotted near Broadland Avenue and Three Ranch Road just south of the freeway, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Glatt.

Officers had hoped to corner the bear as it hunkered down on railroad tracks near Mountain Avenue, but the animal dashed onto the the freeway. Authorities ordered the freeway closed as a team of California Department of Fish and Game officials, sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers attempted to track the bear's movement in darkness.

A sheriff’s helicopter trained a searchlight on an area of thick bushes and trees on the north shoulder of the freeway and also tried to detect the bear using night vision equipment but failed to spot him, according to Fish and Game warden Don Nelson, who arrived on the scene at about 3:30 a.m.

After about an hour and a half, Nelson and another warden heard the bear snort and they fired several rounds of bean bags into the bushes. The bear then climbed 40 feet up a pine tree next to the freeway, which was briefly closed again.

Nelson then fired a tranquilizer at the bear’s chest, causing it to scamper down the tree and run north into Monrovia, jumping fences along the way. By this time, the Monrovia Police department had also joined the pursuit. Nelson speculated that the bear was trying to retrace its path from the foothills, along Sawpit Wash, which threads through Monrovia to the Angeles National Forest.

Instead, the wayward bear wandered onto a car dealership near Mountain and Central avenues. Nelson and the other warden stood on a nearby Caltrans station platform and fired another tranquilizer. After two or three minutes, the bear collapsed. After its more than four-hour ramble, the bear was transported back to the foothills, where the wardens stayed with it until it recovered and lumbered off at about 10:15 a.m. 

It is rare for bears to migrate south of the Foothill Freeway, Nelson said. But this bear never posed a threat to humans or caused any destruction.

“They are very docile and just want to be left alone,” Nelson said. “It never showed any aggression. Being the situation it was though, it turned out really well.”

-- Carla Rivera