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Bear cub wanders into Pittsburgh Mills in Frazer

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By Jeff Domenick and Brian Rittmeyer
Saturday, July 21, 2012, 9:10 p.m.
 

Shoppers at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer were startled Saturday evening when a young bear wandered into the Sears Grand store.

The call came in to authorities at about 8:40 p.m. - about 20 minutes before closing time.

Nobody was hurt in the incident, and the bear was taken away sedated.

"The bear just walked up to the automatic doors, they opened and he just ran in," said Brian Grant, security director for Pittsburgh Mills. "One of our officers arrived here and saw people running out the doors."

The bear turned out to be a she, about a year old and weighing 120 to 125 pounds, said Dan Puhala, a wildlife conservation officer with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Matt Marcinik said he was outside the mall's entry 2 near Sears smoking when he saw the bear running around.

"It was just running across the parking lot. It was the strangest thing," said Marcinik, of Brighton Heights, who said he was at the mall to see a movie.

Marcinik said people were chasing the bear with their cars, and it was moving fast.

"It wasn't angry, it was afraid," he said.

The bear almost went into the main area of the mall at entry 2, but didn't go in when the doors opened, Marcinik said. It then went toward Sears, where it did go in when the doors opened.

Marcinik said he went in after it to warn people."It didn't look aggressive but it's a wild animal and you never know what might happen," he said.

"It was running up and down the aisles," he said. "It darted past several people. They didn't even know it was a bear."

The bear was carted out of the store and put in a waiting bear trap trailer in the parking lot around 10 p.m. to the "awes" of a gathered crowd who were taking whatever pictures and videos they could with cell phones and iPads.

"He's cute!" said Amanda Keating, 29, of Springdale Borough. "I love that bear."

Sears officials quickly announced that there was an emergency and evacuated the store, Grant said. Store personnel also closed the store's metal mesh gate into the mall proper to prevent the bear from exiting Sears.

Store management said they were not allowed to comment, except to say they got everybody out of the store "safely and quickly."

The cub roamed through the store for about 10 minutes with Frazer police officers in pursuit. It eventually was chased into a double door at one of the entrances that had its power cut, trapping itself, he said.

The bear spent most of the next hour lying on the floor, but occasionally strolled around the enclosed area.

A Pennsylvania Game Commission officer climbed a ladder and shot the bear with a tranquilizer at about 9:35 p.m.

But before it was rendered unconscious, the automatic doors into Sears swung open and the bear strolled back into store.

Police followed the animal at a distance and it soon fell asleep.

The bear was wearing a collar with a tracking device and could be part of a research project, Puhala said. He wasn't sure where the bear was from, but said it came to Frazer most likely from New Florence and not from anywhere in Allegheny County.

The bear was not with its mother, as it was of the age where mother bears begin dispersing their young, Puhala said.

It may have been drawn to the mall area by the smell of food. Puhala said local police had reported it had been seen in the wooded areas around the mall over the past few days.

"It was probably more frightened than anything," he said. "For the most part that bear wanted to get away from everybody."

He said it hasn't been determined as to where the bear will be taken.

Staff writer Bobby Kerlik contributed to this report.

 

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