Black Bear Tranquilized After Escaping Officers, Running Through NIH Campus

Rockville police say the 150-pound bear was spotted near downtown Rockville, Md., Thursday morning.

A 100-pound black bear that spent much of Thursday afternoon perched in a tree in Bethesda, Maryland, has been tranquilized and removed from the campus of the National Institutes of Health.

The bear -- who is estimated to be about a year old -- was lured down from the tree but then escaped from a fenced-in area at its base, evading officers and running freely through the NIH campus before officers tranquilized him.

The bear was initially spotted about 100 feet up the tree at the NIH, located near the Medical Center Metro station. Maryland Natural Resources Police installed a fence around the base of the tree.

Authorities fired several rounds of miniature bottle rockets and firecrackers in an attempt to scare the bear down from the tree, News4's Mark Segraves reported.

While the noise scared birds in the tree, sending them scattering, it took several rounds before the bear decided to slowly climb down. Crews had not wanted to shoot the bear with the tranquilizer gun while he was in the tree because of the distance from the ground.

Police searched the wooded area for about 25 minutes before finding him. A trained wildlife biologist fired two tranquilizer shots at the bear.

Once the bear lost consciousness, officers strapped him onto a stretcher and loaded him into a small Bobcat pickup truck in order to get him to a larger vehicle. He was relocated to a forest in western Montgomery County.

"We're going to watch from a distance to make sure it did recover safely and was able to go on its own," Patty Handy with Maryland DNR said. "We consider them at that age as more of confused teenagers, where they're going out on their own, and they're trying to figure out where they need to go."

This is the third bear spotting in Montgomery County this week. Rockville police say a bear was spotted near downtown Rockville Thursday morning. An expert said it's likely the same bear.

Monday, residents also spotted a bear roaming around Wheaton, Maryland. That bear was seen in the area of Dean Road off Connecticut Avenue. There were also sightings in backyards near the Matthew Henson Trail.

Police say black bear sightings are relatively common moving south into the county. Over says the bears typically move back north once they find Rockville is not a suitable place for a bear.

If you see or encounter a bear, call Rockville Animal Control at 240-314-8900. Do not attempt to feed it or approach it. Scare it away by making some sort of loud noise.

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