‘We’re drawing all God’s creatures,’ when a bear enters a church

There is a bear in the bathroom at the Most Sacred Heart Parish near St. Louis, Missouri.

“We look upon it as one more of God’s creatures drawn here,” said Father Joe Kempf.

The bear was first spotted early Tuesday in a subdivision here and later downtown rummaging through trash cans, said Eureka police Capt. David Wilson. It may have been looking for food.

 

“I’ve been blessed to be here four years, and the fact that we have such beautiful nature outside our windows is also a gift.”

 

And then it found God.

Teachers at the parish school near Interstate 44 and Highway 109 were cleaning out classrooms for the summer and had propped open a back door for less than two minutes at about 11:30 a.m., Kempf said — just long enough for a black bear to run inside.

But the bear didn’t seem keen on staying in the church too long. It ran through the lobby straight into a glass door, where it was caught on video standing on its hind legs, jumping and swiping at the glass. A copy of the video shared on Facebook garnered hundreds of views.

Parish staff immediately spotted the bear on security cameras and locked themselves in a room, Eureka police said.

Police, notified of the bear when it was downtown passing by the shops, weren’t far behind. They arrived as parish staff were calling them.

“They’ve done a wonderful job,” Kempf said of police.

The bear eventually ran into a boys bathroom in the school, and police officers were able to lock the door behind it, Wilson said.

At 4 p.m., the animal was still in the bathroom. It already did some damage in the building including toppling religious statues and leaving claw marks on walls, Wilson said.

Staff with the Department of Conservation took over the effort to remove the bear, as police closed off roads to the school, in an attempt to prevent onlookers.

Two conservation agents and a biologist planned to open doors of the building in hopes that the bear will leave on its own, said conservation department spokesman Dan Zarlenga.

“The bear was clawing at windows, which is a good sign that it wants to leave,” Zarlenga said.

If the bear doesn’t leave the vicinity or appears to be a danger to humans, the agents will turn to tranquilizing the animal, Zarlenga said.

“We want to refrain from that if possible,” Zarlenga said. “The dart doesn’t always take affect right away and bears can panic and cause more damage.”

Zarlenga said it’s possible recent flooding may have displaced the bear, though there are periodically bear sightings in the area.

Kempf said deer are common around the parish. Possums, hawks and skunks are occasional guests, too.

But this is the first bear he’s seen.

“I’ve been blessed to be here four years, and the fact that we have such beautiful nature outside our windows is also a gift,” he said. “Every so often, when we live so close to natural areas, we interact a little more than we’re used to.”


Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch