RICHMOND HEIGHTS — A juvenile black bear was safely captured by the Missouri Department of Conservation on Sunday evening, causing a hubbub in the neighborhood as he was loaded into a crate and driven away.
The scene in the residential neighborhood was tense while the Clayton Fire Department tried to get the 150-pound bear out of a tree in front of a home at the intersection of Buck and East Linden avenues. The bear didn’t immediately lose consciousness after being hit with a tranquilizer dart, and climbed higher into the tree before drowsily climbing down.
Conservation officials said the unnamed 1.5 to 2-year-old bear will be taken far out into the country, checked for vital signs and then released when he awakens. His ears will be tagged so conservation officials will be able to identify him.
Bear sightings were reported throughout the weekend from Fenton to Sunset Hills, Webster Groves and Brentwood.
On Saturday, it was the first day of the season for one of Drew Boeker’s baseball teams, and a pregame adrenaline rush came from an unexpected source: a bear.
Drew, 12, and his family were driving on Sappington Road on the way to the game when Drew called out, “Dad! That was a bear!”
Tim Boeker pulled over, and the family, including mom, Laura Boeker, watched the bear run along the fence between the road and the grounds of Ursuline Academy in Oakland at about 7:30 p.m., Laura Boeker said in a Facebook message on Sunday morning.
As the bear wandered in its slow, lopsided way into nearby residential yards, several other cars followed the Boekers’ example and pulled over to bear witness.
“At first, we thought that it couldn’t really be a bear, maybe a really big dog?!” Boeker said. “And then it was very obvious it was a bear.” The bruin’s face and the way it ran gave it away, she said.
“He hopped a little like our puppy, who is 40 pounds at only 6 months,” she said. The bear crossed the street at one point, and traffic slowed to let the large woodland creature pass.
“He looked like he wanted to climb a tree, but I think all the cars scared him,” Boeker said.
The Boekers and the rest of the motorists, according to Laura Boeker’s account, acted as the Missouri Department of Conservation urges people act when encountering a bear: Stay calm, keep your distance and do not feed.
The state’s black bear management plan says there are an estimated 540 to 840 black bears in the state as of 2019, and that the bear population is growing.
A bear was also spotted at the Brentwood Swim and Tennis Club about 2:30 p.m. Sunday, according to social media posts. It was likely the same bear later captured in Richmond Heights and seen the day before, according to conservation officials.
Bears are most active in the southern part of the state, but right now is the time they’d be seen traversing unusual paths, per the report: “Black bear sightings tend to be seasonal, with a distinct peak of activity occurring in May and June, during breeding and when natural foods are scarce and bears forage in areas where they are likely to be seen.”
Homeowners are advised to keep their yards, trash bins and properties clean and free from debris at all times, but particularly during these months.
The Kirkwood Police Department made its own bear-aware post, and it placed extra emphasis on one instruction:
“NO SELFIES,” the Facebook post read.
Mandy Drozda, 44, was driving home from her son, Owen’s, 10, club baseball game on Saturday evening, and wanted to give her daughter Ada, 13, who was visiting with a friend, a heads-up.
“I basically just said, ‘Hey, I know you girls are out walking around, I want to make sure you’re aware there’s a bear in the area, and don’t mess with him,’” Drozda told the Post-Dispatch in a Facebook Messenger voice message.
She learned the bear was seen at Webster Hills United Methodist Church at Berry Road and West Lockwood Avenue. That was about a mile and a half away from where the Boekers saw a bear.
She wanted to catch a glimpse, and stopped near Mary Queen of Peace school in Webster Groves, where she saw two police cars idling near the gymnasium. The bear in a tree near the cars, and Drozda and two of her sons were able to snap a few photos.
“It was pretty amazing,” Drozda said.
Laura Boeker was excited to send photos and video of “Bear-ington” (the bear on Sappington) or “Glen” (as in Glendale), as other parents at the baseball game dubbed him, to her niece, who attends Ursuline, whose mascot is the bears.
After a bear made his final stop Sunday in a Richmond Heights neighborhood, Ron Clipper drove in from Maplewood with his daughter to see the action.
“We need to send the cubs and the bears back to Chicago — this is Cardinals town,” Clipper said.
Sara Diggins and Rachel Rice with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.