SPOKANE — A little bear that tasted the urban wilds of downtown Spokane was tranquilized and released into the woods on Monday, with wildlife officials hoping the animal survives hunting season.
The 2½-year-old male black bear was taken from Riverfront Park to the Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge, where hunting is prohibited, said Madonna Luers of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in Spokane.
But it isn’t the bear’s safety that has them worried. It is bear hunting season and the agency does not want an animal with traces of strong tranquilizer in its system to be shot and consumed by humans, she said.
“Most drugs will not come out of an animal’s system for a few days,” she said.
Luers also insisted the bear was not killed, as was a cougar that wandered into a Spokane residential neighborhood in May.
“It’s alive and well and coming out of that drug and wants to go in the woods somewhere,” Luers said.
A transient in downtown’s Riverfront Park spotted the boar slumbering against a retaining wall shortly after 6 a.m., in the heart of this city of 188,000 people, officials said.
Law officers and wildlife officials surrounded the animal, and a veterinarian poked it with a hypodermic needle as it slept.
“Four guys picked it up and put it in a metal box with airholes,” said Gail Mackie of Spokanimal, the city animal control agency.
Luers described the 125-pound bear as “healthy but docile” and accustomed to people.
The incident is another example of how the growth of human population in pushing more wild animals into populated areas in search of places to live. In the past, such a bear would have been able to avoid humans while finding a home, she said.
The park is along the Spokane River, which Mackie said is a natural corridor for animals to use.
Luers said it is possible to roam deep into the city along the river without encountering many people.