By Robert Noles
Opelika gets all sorts of visitors and they usually add to the local economy. Last Wednesday morning was no exception as a mature male black bear visited our city. The animal was barely here before he had attracted a large turnout of bear watchers as he ambled through streets and backyards in east Opelika.
First spotted around 8:30 a.m. near the pole yard at the Opelika Public Works off Jeter Street and Fox Trail, the bear crossed Fox Run Parkway and made its way to Samford Avenue behind Wing Town and then back to an area between Plum Street and Jeter Avenue..
Even as the Opelika Police Department was warning people to stay out of the area, traffic continued to increase as onlookers came from around town and the surrounding area to see the bear. One man even showed up with his son from Valley to view the black bear after seeing information on the internet.
The black bear, estimated to weigh about 300 pounds, finally got tired and climbed a tree to rest. At that point Opelika Police and Alabama Wildlife and Fisheries Division personnel were able to spot the bear and tranquilize him.
According to OPD Captain Shane Healey, the bear was shot with two tranquilizer darts. Once the bear was sedated, an Auburn University veterinarian examined him and packed him with ice to keep him cool in the heat. The bear was then loaded up and transported to an undisclosed location where he was examined once again and allowed to wake up in a natural surrounding.
The Parks and Recreation Department has assured us that the bear visit was not a part of their scheduled summer entertainment for Opelika residents.
Seriously though, wild animals do not normally wander into densely populated areas and this bear did not come with the intention of providing entertainment. Even as our police were doing their best to warn people to stay inside and avoid confronting the frightened animal, foolhardy residents were rushing to the area, children in tow, to see and film the bear.
This is the second sighting of a black bear in Opelika. About two years ago, there was a bear sighting along with some property damage in the North Uniroyal Road area.