Black bear captured in Bethesda

A black bear, upper right, climbs down a tree near the National Institutes of Health Thursday afternoon as firefighters watch. The bear was later captured on the NIH campus. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)

WASHINGTON – A bear found in a tree near the National Institutes of Health Thursday has been tranquilized and is in the custody of wildlife officials.

The bear spent at least two hours in the tree before responders fired four noise devices into the air to spook it off its perch about 100-feet above ground.

As soon as the animal hit the ground DNR officers fired another noise device to shoo it away from the road, sending the bear running toward the NIH campus.

DNR staff located the 100-pound bear soon after in a stream on campus and hit it with a tranquilizer dart, knocking out the bear.

“Ten minutes later he was snoring,” says Paul Peditto, director of the DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service.

Attempts to shake the bear out of the tree were delayed while the National Institutes of Health alerted staff about the bear’s presence on campus. The tree was located along Rockville Pike near the Kiss and Ride lot at the Medical Center Metro station.

Peditto says the male bear, which is about 1.5 years old, has traveled a few dozen square miles in the past week or so.

A black bear was also spotted near downtown Rockville Thursday morning and Peditto believes it was likely the same animal as the bear caught in Bethesda.

Police had said the bear did not pose any threat.

They were trying to direct the bear away from homes and toward a rural area closer to Interstate 270 when the animal was spotted in Bethesda about 1 p.m.

DNR police say the bear will be released along the western edge of Montgomery County in a state wildlife area near the Potomac River.

“He’ll be able to cool off when he comes to and hopefully he’ll turn west and find some more appropriate bear habitat,” Peditto says.

WTOP’s Andrew Mollenbeck contributed to this report from Bethesda. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and on WTOP Facebook page.

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