It took three shots from a tranquilizer gun, but Washington Fish and Wildlife agents finally caught a black bear that eluded them for hours Friday morning and walked across a school playground in a Lakewood neighborhood.
The healthy 4-year-old male, weighing about 230 pounds, has a good layer of fat and brown fur that apparently blocked darts or warded off some of the drug, said Sgt. Ted Jackson.
"We don't know how much got in," he said.
Agents were checking to make sure the drowsy bear recovered before releasing it in a remote area of the Olympics or Cascades mountains, Jackson said.
"We're going to put it far enough away," he said. "Let the drugs wear off and let it go."
The bear has been spotted several times over the past week in the Lakewood-Fort Lewis area near Tacoma, about 30 miles south of Seattle.
In August, a bear attacked a civilian Army employee walking his dog in a wooded area of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He was treated by medics for bites and scratches to his abdomen, wrist and thigh. The bear chased the dog. It escaped and was later found off the base.
About 1:30 a.m. Friday, Lakewood residents who spotted the bear in their suburban neighborhood started calling 911 and wildlife agents responded.
An agent fired the first tranquilizer dart just before 6 a.m. The bear took off over fences and eluded agents and their Karelian bear dog until after daylight.
Seattle TV stations with helicopter video followed the chase and showed the bear walking down a neighborhood street. Jackson said it crossed the grounds of Tyee Park Elementary School. Students were locked down inside, the school district said.
Wildlife agents followed the bear down railroad tracks and finally into a creek bed where it was darted a couple more times before it finally went to sleep.
Officers dragged it into a parking lot on a tarp to check it out for side effects from the drugs and chase.
No one was hurt and the bear survived its encounter with suburbia.
"We got lucky," Jackson said.
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