It’s not a stretch to say that for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, bear releases are pretty common. WDFW Officer Nick Jorg estimates he’s done more than 300.
So when Jorg says a bear release is special, it’s really special.
“Oh, this was a special occasion,” Jorg told us.
A nearly 4-year-old female bear, who Jorg calls Pearl, was hit by a car last December.
Her pelvis was broken, and it took hundreds of volunteer hours by dozens of people and about half a dozen nonprofits -- from PAWs in Lynnwood to the Woodland Park Zoo -- to successfully rehabilitate Pearl.
Wednesday, she’s going home to an undisclosed location east of Monroe.
Pearl hitched a ride behind Jorg’s rig, which he shares with his two Karelian bear dogs Freyja and Colter; the PAWS naturalist and zoo staff followed behind.
And then there were four very special guests on this very special release.
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“This is a very special experience, one that’s taken a couple of years to make happen so it’s very special,” Jennifer Hansen said.
Chad and Jennifer Hansen won a bear release at an WDFW auction when 4-year-old Ollie was barely 1 and 2-year-old Axel wasn’t even a twinkle in Jennifer’s eye.
“Nick [Jorg] has been great reaching out to us every year letting us know if there’s ever an opportunity and we finally got one and a pretty special one,” Jennifer explained.
The Hansens and the others loaded up on flatbed trucks to watch the release, which can be a little unsettling.
“OK so we’re going to be really inhumane to the bear here for a few minutes, for a couple seconds, to break the food conditioning and habituation that it might have, so it wants to stay away from people,” Jorg told the group.
“We want the dogs to bark really loud and they’re going to help the bear run out into the woods,” Jennifer told her sons.
And that’s exactly what happened; Pearl took a hard left and heads for the woods, with Colter and Freyja on her tail.
“That was awesome,” Ollie told his mom. “That was awesome, I agree,” she replied.
All organizations involved in Pearl’s release aside from the WDFW are nonprofits and need donations to thrive. PAWS’ Big Give campaign runs through midnight Wednesday.
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