Bear at Morro Rock leads to lockdown at Morro Bay High

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comMay 9, 2013 

A 250-pound black bear made its way to Morro Rock on Thursday, prompting cautious officials to lock down Morro Bay High School as a crowd of curious observers gathered to catch a rare glimpse of the animal.

The Morro Bay Police Department was to first agency to receive a call about the bear, which a citizen reported around 6:30 a.m., said Jim Allen, director of marketing for the California State Parks. For the next several hours, a multi-agency team worked to corral the bear and take it to its ultimate destination, the Los Padres National Forest.

Allen said they could not determine where the bear came from.

“They did see footprints in a variety of places,” he said.

Once police arrived, a perimeter was set up around the parking lot next to Morro Rock. Meanwhile, the bear casually walked through the thick shrubbery on the north side of the Rock.

“He would disappear in and out of those,” Allen said.

As employees from state parks, Morro Bay police, Cal Fire, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the county animal shelter arrived on the scene, so, too, did camera-touting locals.

While a plaque at the Morro Rock parking lot features a bear, that has more to do with the grizzly bear, California's state animal. Allen said he can’t remember there ever being a bear sighting at Morro Rock.

At 7:30, Mike Jones, who owns the Azhiaziam surf shop nearby, received a text from a surfer, who had seen the bear. Eventually, Jones was there, taking photos he quickly posted on his Facebook page.

“There ended up being a crowd down there,” Jones said.

While the high school is a little ways up the beach, Morro Bay police sent school administrators an email about the bear, suggesting a lockdown, said Kim Holmes, executive assistant to the superintendent at San Luis Coastal Unified School District.

“A lockdown means the kids stay in their classrooms,” Holmes said.

While students weren’t allowed to leave campus, Fish and Wildlife workers with tranquilizer guns worked to find an angle to shoot the bear. But its proximity to the water posed a challenge.

“They wanted to trap the animal when it was in a place where it couldn’t fall and roll into the water,” Allen said.

Allen said the bear didn’t act unusual and wasn’t injured. And eventually tranquilizers subdued the bear. A veterinarian from the San Luis Obispo County’s Animal Services checked the animal afterward, then the team began carrying down the juvenile bear. Because the brush in the area was so thick, they also had to blaze a trail with saws.

Around 11 a.m., roughly a half-hour after the bear was subdued, the animal was loaded into a truck and then taken to an unknown location at the Los Padres National Forest.

Click here to see photos of the bear at Morro Rock »

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