Animal control officials managed to shoot a bear with a tranquilizer dart after it climbed a tree near a northern New Jersey elementary school, camped out there for a bit and shimmied the 40 feet back down before running off in the opposite direction, leading authorities on a six-hour chase.
Authorities were trying to coax the 301-pound bear down low enough so they could tranquilize it and safely catch it in a net, but the bear apparently came all the way to the ground on its own -- and escaped.
The bear led authorities on a chase through Ridgewood after it climbed about 40 feet up a tree in the front yard of a home near Ridge Elementary School around 9:30 a.m. It ran toward Godwin Avenue and climbed another tree there, then climbed down that one and ran off again before authorities found it nestled in the crook of yet another tree, this time on Lake Street.
The bruin clung to a branch for awhile, but the effect of the tranquilizer dart eventually made it fall into a safety net held by emergency responders. The bear, a male, was not harmed. It will be tagged and marked and driven back to the woods in northwest New Jersey. Authorities said it never behaved aggressively.
No injuries were reported and students in nearby schools were able to go home as scheduled.
An hour before the bear was spotted near the elementary school, sanitation workers reported seeing a bear and two cubs at a leaf dump. Authorities also got a call about a large bear spotted elsewhere in town.
The multiple sightings in Ridgewood come a day after officials at an elementary school in Wayne, a county over, canceled outdoor recess for the second time in two weeks after a bear was spotted wandering through the neighborhood.
Police say the bear in Wayne, believed to be the same one spotted in the area last week, hasn't shown aggressive behavior. It was seen in the woods surrounding the Toys R Us corporate headquarters over the weekend and on various blocks around the Pines Lake neighborhood.
Residents in nearby Oakland have also seen a mother black bear and her cubs walking near houses.
Many homeowners are taking the bears more seriously after Rutgers senior Darsh Patel was killed in a bear attack in West Milford last Sunday, the first fatal bear attack in New Jersey in at least 150 years.
Since the bear hunt in New Jersey began four years ago, the number of bear nuisance complaints have gone down by 43 percent.
But in 2014, the numbers have been going back up, with a 30 percent increase in bear nuisance calls compared to last year. Biologists are still trying to determine why.
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