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Bear spotted near Central Point school

Mae Richardson Elementary School students in Central Point were kept indoors briefly during school and at recess after a black bear was sighted in the neighborhood this morning.

Central Point police and Oregon State Police troopers set up a perimeter to watch for the bear and to keep an eye on older students who were waiting for the bus and walking to nearby Crater High School.

Police also kept watch over sports fields and the playground at Mae Richardson Elementary School on West Pine Street. The outdoor areas were empty of children, who stayed inside their classrooms with the doors closed.

The bear was seen in the backyard of a home, then headed toward thick trees and brush lining Griffin Creek.

Stationed on a neighborhood street, Central Point Police Officer Marc Williams said he had seen a large black bear weighing about 300 pounds.

"We're watching and monitoring him to make sure he doesn't head toward the school," Williams said.

He said police were hopeful if they kept their distance and the bear didn't feel threatened, it would head back to wilder country.

"He's probably more scared than we are. Hopefully he'll go back home," Williams said.

Several parents and teens in the neighborhood of homes, walking paths and open spaces said they had noticed the police presence, but didn't know a bear had been spotted.

As of late morning, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife didn't have plans to tranquilize and move the bear, Central Point Police Lt. Scott Logue said as he watched for the bear from a bridge spanning Griffin Creek.

Logue had spotted the bear earlier and described it as "a good-sized black bear."

"We're not hunting for the bear. We're being mindful of public safety. It hasn't done anything to indicate it's aggressive," he said.

Reach reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or by email at valdous@mailtribune.com.