EUREKA, Mo. - A small bear has been tranquilized and removed from a Eureka, Missouri school where it became trapped on Tuesday.
School is out at Most Sacred Heart Parish. The pastor, Father Joe Kempf, says they had propped open a door as they cleaned the school and the bear found his way inside.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the Missouri Department of Conservation confirmed that a young bear had been tranquilized and removed from the parish school. The bear was a male, about 18 months old, weighing around 90 pounds. He will be released in an outlying area. Conservation officials first tried to lure the bear out of the school but he wouldn't budge. That's when the decision was made to tranquilize.
Missouri Department of Conservation spokesman Dan Zarlenga confirmed the bear was released into a wooded area of Jefferson County away from homes and businesses. He said the fact the bear appeared to be 18 months old is one possible explanation for why the bear was wondering.
“This is a real common time period when the parents will push those males out of the den so they can make room for the young cubs and so he could be out exploring and learning the world for the first time and getting into all kinds of mischief,” Zarlenga said.
He said it’s also possible area flooding sent the bear into the area near the church. Conservation agents said the best way to avoid a bear visit is to eliminate food sources outside your home.
“This would include pet food for your cats and your dogs. This could include a grill that you haven’t cleaned off, you know? There could still be some grease or meat left on it,” Zarlenga said.
He also said it’s a good idea that any trash containers are sealed airtight or kept in a garage until it’s time for them to be dumped.
“Do not feed bears deliberately because there’s a saying that 'a fed bear is a dead bear,'” said Zarlenga. “Once a bear is fed, habituated to humans, it really creates a behavioral problem and it’s not good for the people and it’s not good for the bear in the end either.”
Video of the bear inside the church and school spread like wildfire on social media.
A post to Eureka, Missouri's Community page run by the Realty Team of Josh Kahn and Katie Busk says, "Amazing footage of a bear trapped in Most Sacred Heart Parish - Eureka, Missouri. He was probably upset to find out he missed the famous fish fry! In all seriousness, we hope this young bear made it out safely."
Missouri Route 109 near the school was blocked off while officials worked on removing the bear.
Police quickly removed some statues at Sacred Heart School in Eureka to save them from the bear. Claw marks present pic.twitter.com/wz5zeWJnis
— Joseph Kenny (@JosephKenny2) May 28, 2019
Update on small bear trapped inside Eureka School. Conservation officials hoping to lure bear back into wild. Parish priest says bear is in a school bathroom right now. https://t.co/crjbVY0YNR via @fox2now
— Jeff Bernthal (@JeffBernthal) May 28, 2019
Others spotted the bear cub in the streets and alleys of Eureka: