‘Big Mamma’ Bear Locks Down an Entire California Elementary School

by Jon D. B.

After “stalking” the kindergarten quarters, this large black bear sow caused an entire California elementary school to shut down Wednesday.

Most kids know the joy of a snow day. But a bear day? Students from one Southern California elementary school can now say they’ve had themselves the latter.

“A big mamma bear was seen stalking the campus,” TODAY begins in their coverage. According to wildlife officials, the black bear sow may have been “looking for a missing cub.”

The large sow was first spotted in an adjacent Southern California neighborhood. But after she hopped the schoolground’s fence and approached the kindergarten wing, education personnel felt she was far too close for comfort.

The mamma bear then spent “about a half-hour on school grounds” before wildlife officials could arrive. By that time, however, she had settled into a nearby tree. Thankfully, authorities were able to safely tranquilize the sow and return her to the wild.

Local news footage showcased by TODAY (above) shows six officers working in tandem to carry the big black bear off school property. This is no surprise, as female black bears can weigh a good 200 pounds. This time of year, however, they can add on another 50-100 pounds as they enter hyperphagia – the feeding frenzy that kicks in before winter hibernation.

No humans or bears were hurt in the bruin’s escapade, but these California kids now surely have a story they’ll never forget.

Black Bear Hyperphagia May Explain Sow’s Presence in Crowded Urban Area

Like all bear species, the American black bear’s hyperphagia is a ravenous state of being. As fall rolls in, bruins enter this pre-winter feeding frenzy. Biologists and wildlife officials know it as hyperphagia: A period of excessive eating and drinking to fatten for hibernation.

UNITED STATES – 2013/08/22: American black bear (Ursus americanus) feeding on salmon at creek at Neets Bay fish hatchery, Behm Canal in Southeast Alaska near Ketchikan, USA. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Fancy word aside, the term simply notes when bears are eating and drinking constantly throughout their day in order to prepare for winter hibernation. Nothing else matters in this timespan but food, more food, and water to wash it down. And this is exactly what leads to the huge uptick in autumn-encounters with black bears like the California ‘big mamma’ above.

From the West to East Coast, America’s widespread black bears all have food (and more food) on the mind. As they prepare to sleep – and not eat – for the next four to six months, anything and everything becomes a potential food source for the famously curious species. In fact, black bears with unlimited food and water sources will eat 15,000 to 20,000 calories every single day during hyperphagia.

While we’re not saying these California school children would’ve been a potential snack, school personnel absolutely made the right call. When it comes to bear country, the only chance you should ever take is “no chance at all.”