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article imageBear strolls through Montana high school, becomes media sensation

By Megan Hamilton     Oct 15, 2015 in Environment
Bozeman - It sounds like the beginning of a joke: "A black bear strolled into a high school..." but it's no joke.
It actually happened — at a high school in Montana. The bruin ambled around Bozeman High School around 7:30 a.m. before leaving on its own.
Perhaps the bear was just trying to find out what the breakfast special was, because it nosed around in the school cafeteria after entering through a garage door, Time.com reports.
Whatever the black bear was doing, it managed to startle students and staff alike.
Fortunately, neither humans or bears were harmed in the incident, a spokesperson from Montana's department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks told the Billings Gazette, per Time.com.
Members of the booster club were having a meeting in the cafeteria when they spotted the bear on the football field. It prowled along into the school courtyard, through the aforementioned garage door and down a long hall lined with lockers, The Washington Post reports.
The bear snuffled around the hallway for a few minutes, watched by about 10 students on one side and worried staff members on the other, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports.
"It was pretty skittish," said Principal Kevin Conwell.
Then people hauled out their cellphones, recording the bear's visit for posterity and the social media.
Conwell said that even though the students were curious about the critter and snapping photos and videos, they kept their distance.
"They were being careful. They were keeping a good, safe distance, he said.
At one point the bear tried to climb up one locker and was likely looking for any snacks hidden inside, and staff members began opening doors to encourage Yogi to go outside and find Boo-Boo.
The bruin finally found an exit and scrambled across the grass and a local creek. It headed across 11th Avenue where Gallatin County Sheriff's Sgt. Brandon Kelly and Bozeman police officer Rick Musson helped the bear head on its way south down a local road.
Kelly, a member of the booster club, "was instrumental in getting the bear down the hallway and out the door," Musson said.
While it prowled around inside the school, the bear didn't act aggressively and didn't cause any damage, Conwell noted. It did, however, cause a lot of concern among staff and students.
"It definitely raised my blood pressure," he said. "There's a wild animal in the building."
It wasn't aggressive while it was being herded away from the school by officers, Musson said.
"It was a nice, pretty black bear," he added.
Bears are a yearly occurrence in Bozeman, but most reports of sightings come from the south end of town.
Andrea Jones, a spokeswoman for Montana's Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department said that the bear moved out of the area, but it will be monitored should it return.
Black bear numbers in some parts of the U.S. are on the increase, the Humane Society of The United States reports, noting that avoiding conflicts can be reasonably simple.
A bear's hearing and eyesight are very acute. Their sense of smell is seven times stronger than a bloodhound's, and this means they have a keen ability to detect pet food, garbage, barbecue grills and bird feeders. Once they locate a food source, they remember where it is, the HSUS reports.
Bears are usually wary when it comes to people, but should a bear find food without being scared away, he may come back again. If this happens, the bear may become less fearful with each visit, and that's where the problems come into play. In late summer and throughout fall, bears go into hyperphagia, a feeding frenzy that helps them bulk up for hibernation, and this is often when bear-human conflicts occur. During this time period bears may gain three to four pounds by consuming up to 20,000 calories a day.
When bears lose their fear of people, they are known as "nuisance bears." These are usually juvenile males who have just left their mothers and are still figuring out how to obtain food. Sometimes they are also mothers with young cubs. In many cases, nuisance bears are killed or trapped and moved away from an area in the hopes that they won't return. It's something that wouldn't have to be necessary, the HSUS notes if people wouldn't make it so easy for bears to find food in their yards or in a trash dumpster.
People who live in bear country can avoid problems by doing the following:
• Keep trash cans inaccessible. Bring them inside at night, or purchase a bear-resistant can or something to enclose the container.
• If you have a compost pile, make sure it’s enclosed. Open compost piles with kitchen scraps are irresistible to bears. Burying compost doesn’t work because bears can dig these up in a jiffy.
• Recycle with care. If you keep recyclables outdoors, use enclosed bins.
• When you barbecue, scrub any drippings off the grill. Use ammonia or bleach when you do clean it, and keep it away from your house.
• If you set up bird feeders, install them away from your house.
Perhaps school officials at Bozeman High School will be looking into this.
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