- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2006

ROANOKE (AP) — A young bear led police and animal-control officers on a five-hour chase through southwestern Roanoke before being tranquilized and captured yesterday.

Police Sgt. Stan Smith said the bear, a yearling male estimated to weigh 75 to 100 pounds, was spotted near a shopping center at about 10:45 a.m. Sgt. Smith was among the officers joining the pursuit.

“This is a first for me,” said Sgt. Smith, a 36-year veteran of the force.

The bear caused quite a stir before it was caught.

Billy and Barbara Williams of Vinton were sitting down to a picnic lunch near her office at the Jefferson College of Health Sciences when a passer-by in a truck stopped and told them they had company.

“Someone yelled, ‘There’s a bear right there,’” Mr. Williams said. “We looked over, and he was standing there, not 15 feet away. “He was a rough-looking character. He looked like he was as scared of us as we were of him.”

The couple slowly retreated and ate lunch in their truck.

Eventually, the bear found a shady spot under a pine tree behind lawyer Tony Anderson’s office. While a half-dozen police officers kept watch, animal-control officer Brian Noto retrieved a dose of ketamine, the drug he needed for his tranquilizing darts, and fired.

“I got him!” Mr. Noto shouted.

The bear loped off, taking refuge in the back yard of a home as officers closed in with a net and nooses. But the woozy animal fled again, leaping a fence and scampering down the street as officers pursued on foot and in cars.

Lawyer Chris Kowalczuk, who was on his way to his office, joined the chase because he didn’t want the bear to enter a park where a festival was under way.

“I never thought I’d end up chasing a bear around my office,” Mr. Kowalczuk said after helping herd the animal into an outside foyer at Trinity United Methodist Church.

Mr. Noto tried to dart the bear a second time, but it was not clear whether the shot was a good hit. The bear broke the glass in a storm window before Mr. Noto took a third shot.

At about 3:30 p.m., police officers moved in again. The bear shattered another window before officers were able to immobilize him with a net and nooses.

A small spot of blood was on the bear’s face, but otherwise the animal looked only exhausted.

“He’ll be fine,” said game Warden Greg Funkhouser. He said the bear would be monitored for a few hours, then likely released deep in a national forest.

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