Black bear sighting prompts modified lockdown at Columbia high school (whose mascot just happens to be a bear)

The Hammond High Bears got a visit from their mascot Wednesday.

A black bear sighting near the school in Columbia prompted officials to place the school on a modified lockdown — continuing classes as normal but keeping students, faculty and staff inside the building — just before noon, Howard County Public School System spokesman Brian Bassett said.

“The school will remain in modified lockdown until further notice,” Bassett said.

Two people reported seeing the animal, but Natural Resources Police and the Wildlife and Heritage Service, which respond to bear sightings, searched the area and could not find it, said Lt. Catherine Medellin, a Natural Resources Police spokeswoman.

“We talked to the principal and said we searched the area and found nothing,” Medellin said.

Black bears are typically shy and avoid humans, but many sightings are reported each year in the counties surrounding Baltimore as the animals make their way toward habitats in Western Maryland.

At least nine bears were struck by vehicles in the state this summer, Natural Resources Police said.

(And, on a technical note: Hammond High School’s mascot is actually a Golden Bear — not a black bear.)

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

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