A bewildered black bear that bounded about the Baltimore Beltway was bagged yesterday.
But only barely.
It took two tranquilizer darts delivered by a state wildlife worker to bring down the 80-pound bear, believed to be 2 years old.
Since Friday, the bear had been sighted repeatedly in the Baltimore suburbs, first in the Sykesville area of Carroll County and then along the Baltimore County-Howard County border. Officials finally caught up with it at the median between the Beltway and Interstate 70 around midday.
Even then, the bear proved elusive.
After being hit with a dart from the tranquilizer gun fired by state Department of Natural Resources wildlife technician Tom Decker, the bear simply darted away, finally crawling into a culvert pipe.
A dog sniffed out the hiding place, and highway workers were cutting through metal bars leading to the other end of the pipe when the bear made another bold run for freedom.
Mr. Decker fired his rifle again, and the bear vanished from sight -- this time into the underbrush, where the pursuing crowd of wildlife officers, police and TV camera crews found it taking an unplanned snooze.
The bear was carried off -- a man for each paw -- and gently tucked into a bed of hay inside a pipe-shaped cage on the back of a wildlife truck for a quick ride home. Or if not home, someplace in far western Garrett County that is more like home for a bear than a junction of interstates at the edge of suburbia.
"He probably stumbled into the metro area by mistake," said Carol Anders, a DNR spokeswoman. "They can roam 50 to 100 miles while looking for their own territory."
Black bears have been making something of a comeback in the rural western part of the state in recent years -- as many as 200 are thought to live in the remote mountains -- but they generally are not found on busy interstates. The DNR's telephone switchboard in Annapolis was lit up by callers anxious to report sightings of the animals yesterday.
An excited Sykesville resident told officials he had spotted "the biggest dog he'd ever seen and it stood up and just climbed right over a fence," said John Vogelpohl, a member of the Sykesville Auxiliary Police.
Ms. Anders said the bear was found to be in good physical condition. But since it was not tagged, they don't know where it came from.
The last time a bear wandered into the Baltimore metropolitan area was eight years ago, she said, when a bear was found in Ellicott City. That animal had been tagged, and was traced 150 miles to the Shenandoah area.