HALF MOUNTAIN – For a few days South Magoffin Elementary temporarily had a new mascot.
On Saturday, August 25, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife was alerted to a bear roaming near the grade school, and a technician checked it out on Sunday.
John Hast, the Bear Program Coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, told the Independent on Monday that they sent a technician to check it out on Sunday, and he confirmed the bear had not been getting in the dumpster, so they expected it would continue moving.
“Bears are moving heavily this time of year, trying to put on weight for hibernation,” Hast explained.
However, Monday morning the bear showed up, again, and was just pacing back and forth near the school.
“It didn’t seem to mind being around the school or the people, so we decided to capture it for an evaluation,” Hast said.
Hast explained that it’s rare to see a bear, except in passing, so if one is staying near one area it’s either being fed by people or has an existing injury.
A biologist tranquilized the bear at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, and immediately was able to identify that the male bear was missing one eye, the other eye was cloudy and it was likely blind. The bear was approximately 100 pounds underweight from what a typical bear of that age would weigh.
“It was our opinion that this bear was well on its way to starving to death due to injury,” Hast said.
The bear was later euthanized due to its injuries and deteriorating health.
Since the bear population has been on the increase in Magoffin in recent years, Hast suggested that all dumpsters have a chain-link fence with barbed wire, garbage be kept indoors until trash collection day, and grills be cleaned and/or burned off after barbecuing to avoid enticing the bears.
“Our mantra is to be bear-wise,” Hast said. “We don’t want the bears to get used to being fed. A normal acting bear you won’t see, and if we have a problem around a house, we look for the reason why first. They’re usually eating garbage, pet food, smelling a grill – that’s 90 percent of the calls we get, so we try to ID the food source and manage these attractants.”
Hast said bears are usually afraid of people, but if someone accidentally gets near a bear, he recommended to yell at it, put hands over your head and to look big.
“The biggest thing is to let the bear know you’re there,” Hast said.
Photo from Brandie Howard