Local bear eludes officers at mental institution

Posted at 8:00 PM, May 07, 2012
and last updated 2012-05-08 01:26:56-04

DINWIDDIE, Va. (WTVR) For hours officers pursue a bear that was on hospital grounds, attempting to tranquilize it but never getting close enough to succeed.

Around 1 p.m., Petersburg authorities got a call that the bear had been seen running at close range to the state's oldest mental facility.

Officers from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Virginia State Police were tracking the bear through the campus.

"We tracked the bear through the woods for awhile, he ran across campus , we tracked him to another section of the woods," said Conservation Officer Jim Patrillo.

Biologists at the scene identify the bear they were chasing was a male who is likely around 2-years-old and probably weighing about 75 pounds. Commonly bears at this age are pushed from their family group by their mother and forced to find new territory.

"They're the bears that end up in trouble, they're often in areas where people don't expect to see bears and many get cornered like this one," biologist Aaron Proctor said.

After over three hours of chasing, police did corner the bear and attempted to tranquilize him from about 25 yards away. The bear escaped getting hit by a long range dart gun and again ran away.

"After that he ran across the road here and in to a safe piece of woods where he not in any proximity to people," said Patrillo.

The chase continued about 30 minutes more before police decided the bear was far enough away from the road and from people that they could suspend the search.

"We just spent the past four hours trying to get close to him and he kept running away so it's not a public safety risk," said Proctor.

Authorities say they believe the bear is now back in his natural habitat but do not rule out the possibility that he could return. Typically black bears are non aggressive animals and conservationists say the biggest threat they pose is a distraction to passing motorists or pedestrians.