Cape Cod bear tranquilized and returned to mainland

BRIDGET MURPHYAssociated Press Published:

BOSTON (AP) -- Oh, the perils of being wildly popular on the Cape.

Wildlife officials said Tuesday that they stepped in to capture the first black bear to visit Cape Cod because its more-than-two-week visit had become a public spectacle.

A combination of curiosity seekers pursuing the 180-pound bruin and his foray close to downtown Provincetown led authorities to shoot him with a tranquilizer dart Monday. They released it on the mainland Tuesday so neither the bear nor its fans would get hurt.

The capture culminated a trip that started Memorial Day weekend, when the animal is believed to have swum the 500-foot-wide Cape Cod Canal and began heading east. Residents captured photos and videos along the way as the animal visited a chicken coop, a cranberry bog and a golf course along a 60-mile stretch from Sandwich to the Cape's tip in Provincetown.

A Twitter feed and a Facebook account, purporting to belong to the bear itself, each picked up more than a thousand followers. Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, said she granted the bear a Facebook friend request in the first week of his visit.

"It's sort of like the Queen's Jubilee in England. Everyone's just having a good time," she said Tuesday.

While she said many people were sad about his departure, the bear's visit created such a buzz that chamber officials planned to introduce a VIP guest at their annual meeting Tuesday night: a person wearing a bear suit.

"Just because he's been such a hit," Northcross said. "I mean, everybody loves the bear."

Jason Zimmer, a state Fisheries and Wildlife district manager on the Cape, said officials put an ear tag on the bear so they can recognize it in the future. He said the animal was 21⁄2 to 3 years old and healthy. Authorities relocated him to central Massachusetts to a place where other bears live so he can find a mate. They think the animal's breeding instinct might have prompted its wanderings.

But before the bear left the Cape, one family got to see it off.

Wellfleet resident Lezli Rowell said she got a call after 4 p.m. Monday warning her that there was a visitor on their block.

"Take your dog inside," a neighbor told her. "There's a bear at our bird feeder."

Rowell said she snapped some pictures of the bear before state officials arrived to start their capture operation. After officials stunned the bear, Rowell's husband, David, used his chainsaw to help cut through the underbrush where the animal took cover.

Then they saw state officials gently take the bear out on a stretcher and give it water. Rowell and two of her sons, ages 15 and 17, also got a chance to do something that gave them bragging rights at Nauset Regional High School on Tuesday.

Before the bear left town, they got to pet him.

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