SCHENECTADY The juvenile black bear that was shot down from a tree in Schenectady’s Stockade neighborhood is in good condition and back in the wild, officials said today.
“He’s doing fine," said state Department of Conservation spokesman Rick Georgeson. "After a night in the trap, I’m sure he’s ready to be released and get back to his freedom.”
The bear turned up in the city early Thursday morning and was near North College and Front streets at around 4:20 p.m. Police cordoned off the area and waited until DEC officers arrived from Delaware County with tranquilizer darts and a cage. They fired three darts and finally got the bear to drop to the ground just after 6:45 p.m.
The bear, which was affectionately named “Barry” by the interested onlookers, spent the night at DEC’s Stamford facility in Delaware County and was taken to Andes, a small town also in Delaware County. He was released on state land, according to Georgeson.
After eluding Schenectady police and state Department of Environmental Conservation agents for most of the day — with sightings of it in the city as early as 6 a.m. — officers stumbled on the bear around 4:20 p.m. near North College and Front streets.
Schenectady Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett explained that rudimentary detective work and the help of a few people gathered on Front Street led to locating the bear. “You don’t want to make people laugh, but we said, ‘Have you seen a bear?’ ” he explained.
The bear was located about 25 feet up in a tree in the backyard of 150 Front St.
Police cordoned off a safety area, which got pushed all the way back to the sidewalks of Front and North College, as the crowd of onlookers grew to well over 100.
If the bear came down the tree, Bennett said that officers were prepared to use deadly force. “It is not a pet.” he said. “We planned for the worst-case scenario,” he said, but hoped that DEC agents would arrive in time with tranquilizers.
Shawn Johnson, a Schenectady resident who had called police, said he wasn’t afraid of the bear. “He’s scared,” Johnson said. The animal had gone over a fence and then scaled the tree.
“He just climbed it like that thing was nothing. Really quick,” he added.
The first DEC agents arrived a little after 5 p.m., which helped relax a growing crowd that was becoming more and more worried about the fate of the bear with each passing minute. The agents, though, had no tranquilizers with them.
The crowd — which lined the nearby sidewalks, sometimes with a sliver of a view of the action and sometimes with no view at all and just enjoying the atmosphere — had worried comment about the outcome. Rumors swirled around about what the officials would do, with mostly misinformation being spread by self-proclaimed experts.
A few minutes after 6 p.m., the fate of the bear seemed to be looking up, as DEC agents from Delaware County arrived with tranquilizer darts and a cage. The only problem left was bringing it down.
The first of three tranquilizers was then methodically prepared by a DEC official. According to Bennett, the second and third tranquilizers hit the bear, with the last fired around 6:45 p.m.
“They darted the bear twice,” he said. “He actually climbed higher [up to about 40 feet] and at one point he was obviously so drugged he could not hang on. He was literally hanging by his front paws and then he dropped to the ground.”
Marissa Nahm, 16, of Rotterdam, who had come with friends from Boulevard Bowl, said they had run into different alleys off the street and got lucky with one that had a view. “There was a huge parking lot, so we went there, and we saw the bear go plop,” she said.
Her friend, Samantha Perkins, 18, of Schenectady, proudly exclaimed that she had climbed up on a fence to get a better view.
About 30 minutes after the fall, Bennett confirmed the bear was alive and had received treatment. He said it was being tagged and taken to a DEC regional headquarters, from where it would be released to an undisclosed location once healthy.
The bear was met with hoots and applause from the dozens of people on Front Street around 7:20 p.m. when it was finally taken away. Perkins, Nahm and a few other young peopled shouted goodbye to their friend “Barry,” a name agreed upon for the bear after some debating, which included the suggested “Michael Jackson.”
New York State licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator Gigi Giorgio of Schenectady said the bear appeared to be a juvenile based on its behavior. “It’s out on its own for its first season and is looking for a territory,” she explained.
Hours before the bear was finally brought down, Giorgio and a colleague had been vocally opposed to any use of force by the police and had advised making a lot of noise to scare the bear into staying up in the tree until the DEC arrived. She said the police had turned down their assistance and their advice.