HICKMAN -- Some people in Stanislaus County were greeted with an unusual sight as a bear stumbled too far from home and ended up in an orchard.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) were able to capture and tranquilize the nearly 2-year-old female bear on Monday.
The 100-pound animal caused quite the stir in town as she traveled far from her home in the mountains to Hickman, a town roughly 30 miles east of Modesto.
Trish Anderson, superintendent at Hickman Community Charter School District, said the bear was found a quarter mile from the school and they had to go on a bear lockdown.
"Our bell rang at 2:30 so kids, parents literally everywhere and we got a call from the sheriff's department that there was a bear in the close proximity and we needed to go on lockdown," Anderson said.
As a school administrator for over 20 years, it was something she had never seen.
"We've had foxes, we've had possums, we've had, you know, your community dog, but a bear? I've locked down a lot of schools in my time but never for a bear," Anderson said.
Ken Paglia, public information officer with CDFW, said it's impossible to know exactly where the bear came from but their guess is Tuolumne County.
"Bears usually disperse from their mothers right at 1-and-a-half years old, so it's possible this bear recently dispersed from its mom and was just kind of trying to find its way in the world," Paglia said.
The orchard the bear was found in and Hickman Charter School are very close to the Tuolumne River. Pagila said it's possible the bear followed the river.
"While it is unusual to see a bear in Hickman at that elevation, it's definitely not uncommon for a bear to follow a river corridor," Paglia said.
He said that during this time of the year, bears are in search of food, like berries. Forging for whatever they can find may lead them on a long trek.
"It does happen. It's just a reminder that wildlife are out there and we share our communities with them at times," Paglia said.
The last time a bear was spotted in Stanislaus County was in 2018 in a different location. Paglia said Fish and Wildlife does not think there is a pattern.
But the day was one many like Anderson will never forget.
"We worry about bobcats, we worry about mountain lions, but bears? It just never had occurred to me. Yeah, now I will think differently about it," Anderson said. "We love Hickman. We just hope the bears stay at home."
Paglia reports the bear was transported back to Tuolumne County, close to Yosemite.
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