You can insert your favorite bear pun here, but no matter how you say it, a bruin made a brief appearance in the halls of Bozeman High School early Wednesday morning.
“This is my first ‘bear-in-a-building’ experience. It just kind of landed in our lap,” said Principal Kevin Conwell said.
Around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, a custodian alerted a group of Bozeman High School booster club members meeting in the school’s south cafeteria to a bear on the football field.
An open garage door into the custodial area provided the bruin a perfect place to dart into the school.
Weaving its way past stacks of chairs and desks, extra furniture and other equipment, the bear eventually made it into “long hall.”
“Sure enough, it was right there in the hallway,” Conwell said.
For a couple of minutes, the bear sniffed around the hallway as about 10 students watched from one side and nervous staff members on the other.
“It was pretty skittish,” Conwell said.
As many people do, students and staff got their cellphones out, recording brief videos of the bear’s short visit to the school, videos that spread on Bozeman social media and beyond.
But Conwell added that, while the students were curious and snapped photos and recorded videos, they remained far from the bear.
“They were being careful. They were keeping a good, safe distance,” Conwell said.
While the bear wandered around the hallway, trying to climb up on a locker and presumably looking for some snacks hidden within, staff members started opening all the doors to encourage the bear to get out.
Eventually, the bear found an exit, running west through the grass, across Mandeville Creek and across 11th Avenue, where Gallatin County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brandon Kelly and Bozeman police officer Rick Musson helped navigate the bear south toward Durston Road.
“Sgt. Kelly was instrumental in getting the bear down the hallway and out the door,” Musson said of Kelly, who is also a member of the booster club.
During its short time in the school, Conwell said the bear did not act aggressively and did not damage anything, but succeeded in making the staff and students quite nervous.
“It definitely raised my blood pressure. There’s a wild animal in the building,” Conwell said.
Even when the bear was being herded away from the school by law enforcement, “it didn’t show any sign of aggression,” Musson said.
“It was a nice, pretty black bear,” he said.
Bears in Bozeman are an annual occurrence, but Musson said police mainly hear reports of sightings on the south end of town.
“This is definitely a first for having it in a school,” Musson said.
Bozeman School District Superintendent Rob Watson laughed when asked if a bear had ever been in the Bozeman High hallways before.
“Not that I’m aware of,” said Watson. “I’m sure we’ve had animals in the school before, but I’m not aware of a bear.”
Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Andrea Jones said the bear moved away from the area and will be monitored if it returns.
The bear didn’t leave school premises without leaving a little something behind.
How’s the old saying go? Does a bear do his business in the woods? At least in this case, it did in the school’s lawn.
“It left us a nice deposit,” Conwell said.