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Bat Plan Emerging Artist Tyler Nansen’s BPSW installation to meld art,education and ecology
By Roger Dey
A few Lincoln kids got a surprise Thursday afternoon when a young black bear came within about ten feet of them while they were playing near the field behind the old Montanan Steakhouse The bear, estimated to be two and a half to four years old, had apparently been hanging out in the tall grass behind the Montanan when it approached Damion Birkholz, his cousin Azreal and another friend. “We were sitting there and we were talking and Azrael was like, ‘hey there’s a deer,’ and I turned around and saw its ears right there and it scared me,” Damion said. “ I was like ‘That’s a bear’ and all us kids bolted back to the house.” The bear was apparently unconcerned by the kids presence and Damien said he’s not sure if the bear actually saw them. Nevertheless, the bear didn’t seem too worried by the presence of people, and his apparent lack of concern had Aaron Birkholz, Damien’s father, a bit concerned himself. The bear ultimately climbed about ten feet up a Ponderosa near his house, but it wasn’t people who spooked it, Birkholz said. It was the noise of a helicopter that flew overhead on its way to the Black Mountain Fire. Pat Shanley, the Lincoln Ranger District wildlife biologist, who showed up for a look at the bear, said it’s been a pretty quiet year in Lincoln for bears. “It’s been really good berry production,” he said. “Typically when we have good berry crops we don’t have nearly as many bears in town, so this is really the first I’ve been aware of.” Shanley said the bear was likely born in the area and that his mother got him familiar with the area. “He’s on his own, but he’s not a real big bear.” He said the bear could have been working around the periphery of town, but was surprised he hadn’t been reported before, given how casual he seemed to be around people. Lincoln Game Warden Ezra Schwalm, who happened to be in Lincoln at the time, received a call form a Lewis and Clark county Sheriff’s Office about the bear. He arrived to assess the situation. Although he initially considered tranquilizing the bear since it was low in the tree, he instead decided a live trap might be a better option. “Their reaction to being hit with a dart is to go higher,” he said. That in turn could have resulted in a fatal fall. However, before Schwalm could deploy the trap and get it baited, the bear climbed out of the tree, which in turn led Schwalm to Plan C, which was to get it to run it out of town to the north. “I had my doubts, with all the houses and fences that it would work out,” he admitted,”but it did.” With Shanley’s help, Schwalm followed the young bruin as it made its way east. Near Teresa G’s it turned north and the chase ultimately led to Lambkin Park, where the bear disappeared into the trees. Although Schwalm and Shanley looked for the bear they couldn’t find it and believe it continued on north. Schwalm said he expected to get a call about it returning to town, but so far that hasn’t happened. He said as far as he knows the bear wasn’t drawn to town by a food source and, despite its apparent lack of concern about people, he suspects it just wandered into town as area bears sometimes do. If someone does spot a bear in town, Schwalm advised calling it in and then leaving it alone. “These things always draw a crowd, and that’s not helpful,” he said. He said in most cases such bears will climb into a tree, wait for dark and then leave.
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