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Police able to get bear out of tree in Grand Forks, but animal's survival is iffy

Dozens brought phones and cameras, but not a single soul thought to bring a picnic basket for a bear that was stuck in a tree in University Park near the University of North Dakota Monday afternoon.

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GRAND FORKS, ND — Dozens brought phones and cameras, but not a single soul thought to bring a picnic basket for a bear that was stuck in a tree in University Park near the University of North Dakota Monday afternoon.

The bear was eventually brought down from the tree safely and still alive around 7 p.m. July 16 after spending about 8 hours up in the tree. Lt. Bill Macki, with the Grand Forks Police Department, said as of Monday evening the eventual outcome of the bear was unknown, as a number of tranquilizers were used on it.

Police originally received a report about a bear near the area of Industrial Park around 4:30 a.m. Monday. Efforts were made to prevent the animal from entering town, but the animal came into town and climbed a tree at on University Avenue around 9 a.m.

The bear eventually got down and walked down a sidewalk and into a neighborhood before heading over to a tall tree in the park, where he would stay for the next several hours.

The bear had climbed part-way up the tree in University Park multiple times before making camp high above ground.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department assisted the police department. Grand Forks Park District was also on scene.

Grand Forks Police Lt. Derik Zimmel said the department does not have tranquilizer equipment, but an offer had been made from a private citizen, who has extensive knowledge about wildlife and these sorts of situations, to come and help the situation, Zimmel said.

Zimmel said it is his understanding that North Dakota Game and Fish does not tranquilize animals.

Although the bear was hit at least one time with the tranquilizer, the bear was still active throughout the day, occasionally moving from branch to branch.

Later in the afternoon, a veterinarian from the Red River Zoo in Fargo assisted the department by using a stronger tranquilizer on the bear, which eventually put it to sleep and made it safe enough to bring the bear down.

Officers secured one of the animal's legs and used a crane type machine to lower it slowly to the ground where it was examined by vets and found to be alive.

Macki said tranquilizing the animal allowed officials to work in a more controlled environment and will allow them to properly evaluate what needs to happen next.

"We don't know if it's going to survive the tranquilizer," Macki said. "We don't know the injuries that might have been caused by attaching a rope to one of its legs and lowering it down, but it's a far better option than shooting it out of the tree."

Large crowds gathered around University Park Monday morning to try and catch a glimpse of the bear. Streets were blocked off in the late morning to early afternoon to help with traffic that had been slowing down to watch what was going on.

Jay Boulanger, an assistant professor of wildlife ecology at UND, has experience tranquilizing large animals, such as bison and deer, and helped advise officials about how to move forward through the evening. Boulanger said he was glad the bear was taken out of the tree and that no one was hurt in the process.

"But this probably won't be the last time we see a bear in University Park, as we've had a few encounters here in the past few years in Grand Forks," he said.

Boulanger said bears are "naturally ranging," so it's not uncommon for them to travel long distances to find new habitats to live in, but did not believe there was necessarily an increase in bears in the area.

"I think the bear in tree in such a public place was a surprise to everyone (Monday) morning," he said. "I think the authorities did a great job in keeping people away, keeping people safe and keeping the bear safe and then getting the bear down."