A 405-pound bear caught marauding a pig farm on Halloween night got a tour of the city that biologists hope will teach it to stay in the woods rather than go trick or treating in town.
Riding in a screened trailer that gave it a good view, the bear was driven past speeding cars and gawking pedestrians Wednesday before biologists drove it into the Siskiyou Mountains and let it go.
“I feel the more harassment he gets from people looking or driving by, it makes it less likely that he returns,” said John Thiebes, Rogue District wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
This is the bear’s only chance.
The department has a two-strikes-and-you’re-out policy on problem bears. One strike, and the bears are trapped alive and turned loose far away in the wild. Two strikes, and the bears are killed.”I don’t think he’ll be back to cause problems,” Thiebes said.
The bear first showed up four weeks ago at Ron Baker’s pig farm in the foothills east of Medford.
Baker tried to scare off the bear but ended up calling Fish and Wildlife officials to bring in a bear trap on Halloween.
Baited with pig food, the door on the trap slammed shut on the bear late Tuesday night.
In the past, Thiebes would have drugged the bear, hauled it somewhere remote and rolled it out of the trap to let it wake up in the woods alone.
But three of every four bears caught harassing humans come back, so a couple of years ago, Thiebes took on a new attitude. Now, he hauls the wide-awake bears through downtown Medford and on busy Interstate 5 before marking them with yellow paint and turning them loose in the wild.
“It’s a real kick to drive down the freeway,” Thiebes said. “Some guy passing you at 80 mph will slow down and let you pass him so he can get a look at the bear again.”
The new approach seems to be working. Out of 15 to 20 problem bears trapped in the Rogue District and relocated in the past two years, only one has come back to bother people. It’s dead now.
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