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South Kitsap School District schools prepare for bears on campuses | Slideshow

Burley-Glenwood Elementary is the only South Kitsap School District that carries the Bears nickname.

That could be a lot more prevalent as the mammals have created problems at multiple SKSD schools in recent years, though.

To counteract that, district officials are trying to be proactive in preparing for a situation where a bear is roaming near one of its schools.

SKSD public information officer Lisa Kirkemo said the district occasionally receives calls from parents, including one last month near Burley-Glenwood, about bear sightings. Kirkemo said Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife reports bear sightings in the area are common during this time of the year as bears are “busy foraging” as they look to gain weight before hibernating.

In cases, such as Burley-Glenwood, where a bear is sighted nearby, Kirkemo said the school will go into a “modified lockdown.” She said the district then works with Fish & Wildlife officials to determine the potential danger students face. Kirkemo said bus drivers are notified about the last sighting and other remedies, such as a phone blast to parents and keeping students inside for recess, based on the bear’s proximity.

“The school district’s policy is always to err on the side of child safety,” she said.

That was the case on May 31 when a bear and three coyotes were spotted by a staff member on the Converse Street campus. Fish & Wildlife officials later determined, around 12:30 p.m. that day, 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.

Some bear sightings are more problematic. 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. Orchard Heights Elementary principal Nancy Pack said her school was on lockdown for a week.

Pack said her school will be prepared for any future bear sightings because of the week-long lockdown in 2011. Pack said they put on an assortment of activities inside the school. She said it worked well enough that Orchard Heights now has made it a morning routine.

“Our discipline went down dramatically,” Pack said. “I cannot tell you how effective it has been for a mellow campus.”

Madonna Luers, a public information officer for Fish and Wildlife, told the Independent in May 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 an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 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.”

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