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Bear and coyote sightings lockdown SK elementary school

Students at Hidden Creek Elementary School were placed on a modified lockdown Thursday morning after a bear and three coyotes were spotted by a staff member on the Converse Street campus.

South Kitsap School District spokeswoman Lisa Kirkemo said that person saw the animals behind the school at 8:05 a.m. and called 911. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife also was notified. Kirkemo said the Department of Fish and Wildlife arrived on the scene at 9:20 a.m., but did not spot the bear or coyotes. She said she was notified around 12:30 p.m. that Fish and Wildlife officials believe the bear was struck and killed by a truck on Highway 16.

As a precautionary measure, Kirkemo said Hidden Creek remained in modified lockdown for the duration of the school day. She said a modified lockdown is used when there is not "an immediate threat."

The lockdown marked the second time in a year that the district was placed into modified lockdown because of a bear sighting. On June 6, 2011, a bear first was spotted at Abby Apartments, which is near Discovery Alternative High School, Marcus Whitman Junior High and Orchard Heights Elementary School. Fish and Wildlife barricaded the green belt area around those schools.

That was the second bear sighting that resulted in a lockdown at Kitsap County schools in a week. North Kitsap schools went into one last week for the same reason.

In addition to escorting students, Kirkemo said recesses were held indoors. She said Fish and Wildlife officials will be at the school when it dismisses at 3:40 p.m. even though they believe the bear is dead.

Madonna Luers, a public information officer for Fish and Wildlife, said that bears wandering into communities typically are younger. She said a one-year male black bear usually is about 75 pounds, while his female counterpart is around 40 pounds. She said a five-year-old male black bear generally weighs 200 pounds, while a female is 60 pounds lighter. Based on her conversations with Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Ted Jackson, who was on the scene, Luers said the bear was an adult and similar in description to the one that was killed.

Luers said Jackson was reticent to set up a trap, which are 3 to 4 feet in circumference, because it could attract "a pet or kid in there." Instead, she said they hoped to shoot the bear with a tranquilizer and relocate it.

Luers said there are 25,000 to 30,000 estimate black bears in Washington state.

"We have a high density of black bears on the peninsula," she said. "We've got a lot of black bears because it's a wooded area. Wild animals live closer to us than we suspect."

When the bear and coyotes were sighted, Hidden Creek principal Laura Smith also made a "blast call," which reaches phones of parents and guardians for students at the school, to notify them about the situation.

Kirkemo said parents were advised not to allow their children to walk to school, and if they drive them, to escort them to the building. Bus drivers also were contacted and given the same instructions.

Parents can visit SKSD's website at http://www.skitsap.wednet.edu/Domain/312 for updates or the district's Facebook page for more information.

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