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Bear may have hopped train into Bakersfield

A 200-pound black bear that hopped a fence into an elementary school playground in Bakersfield may have arrived by train, according to one animal control official.

The youthful ursine appeared Thursday morning in the Ramon Garza Elementary School parking lot, and created a spectacle for parents at the middle school next door who were gathered for a graduation ceremony. As the bear moved toward Garza’s chain-link fence, school administrators had to evacuate about 75-elementary school students from the playground.

Kern County Animal Control spokeswoman Kim Rodriguez and other officials expressed surprise Thursday that a bear could have ventured that far into northeastern Bakersfield.

“He could have hopped on a train that comes out of the hills,” Rodriguez said. “Where he was at, he would have had to cross several busy streets.... I just have hard time believing this bear strolled through a busy street.”

Rodriguez said the bear removal went “very smoothly,” as animal control officials worked with sheriff’s deputies and the public to help track the bear down. She said “people got on their balconies and pointed to where the bear was going” as authorities tracked the bear to an apartment complex. They tased, but did not tranquilize, the bear and then loaded it into a truck.

Janice Mackey, an information officer for California Fish and Game, agreed that bears have rarely ventured that far inland, but some have been spotted on the outskirts of the city. She said that 25 years ago, a bear could have wandered into the area without harm. But Thursday there were hundreds of people in and around the two school campuses, forcing authorities into action. Officials said the bear was scooped up about 30 minutes from the time the first spotting was reported.

“Animal Control subdued the bear, put it in truck, and transported it to a more suitable habitat,” Mackey said.

“The bear will probably never come back again.”


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-- Matt Stevens

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