Authorities Who Get A ‘Road Hazard’ Call Aren’t Prepared For The Puzzling Sight

Residents of Castle Rock in Cowlitz County, Washington, considered their city a rather “sleepy” place. With an average population of 2,000, the community is covered in dense forests and peaceful nature trails…not exactly a city with excitement around every corner.

That’s what made the call that authorities received one Saturday evening so unusual. It had been a quiet day, after all, and the Cowlitz County police were just settling into their nightly patrol when they got the first alert: Something was wrong in Castle Rock.

Well, not wrong, exactly — just out of place. “It just doesn’t sound right,” said Troy Brightbill, the chief criminal deputy at the sheriff’s office. When he first heard the strange story called in by a truck driver, he was skeptical at best. 

Dispatchers had trouble understanding the driver’s story. Someone made a wrong turn? Were they hurt? Did they need an ambulance? “I’m sorry,” dispatchers told the stunned good samaritan, unsure if they’d heard him correctly. Had he said “feline?”

Inlander

No, the driver asserted. Something far bigger than a cat was in the middle of the road, and when the dispatchers finally understood what he was seeing, they immediately alerted the authorities…and Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.

When police arrived on the scene, they heard the weirdest sound yet: roaring. How on earth did a lion end up in Castle Rock? That’s when they saw where the sound was coming from, and though the creature was missing a wild mane of hair, it definitely had whiskers.

Stranger Things/Netflix

In the middle of the road was a sea lion. As the authorities looked on with shock, the sea lion waddled from one side of the road to the other, roaring and barking all the while. For the wildlife officers, three things were certain right from that first glance.

Jeff Bergman/KGW8

The sea lion was female, around 600-700 pounds, and clearly lost. Still, the weirdest part for Scott Schroeder, one of the responding wildlife officers, was the location. He described the landscape as a “rolling, forested” area — not exactly a sea lion’s usual haunt.

But the authorities couldn’t focus on the “why” of it all just then. They had to figure out how the heck they’d get this enormous sea lion back where she belonged without her hurting them or them hurting her.

Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Unfortunately, “sea lion wrangling” isn’t exactly covered at the police academy. The road they were all gathered on was dark, winding, and surrounded by thick woods. If an officer got too close, her small barks turned into a much scarier sound.

Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Bone-chilling roars. “She was very aggressive,” Schroeder said of the alarmed animal. “If you got within 20 feet of her, she would go after you.” And to make matters worse, the authorities were quickly picking up on the sea lion’s most unexpected skill.

She was fast. “As we’ve learned, they’re fairly mobile on land,” Brightbill said. Schroeder said the sea lion would lunge “like an alligator” at anyone who got too close. “She was certainly full of spit and vinegar,” he described…until she revealed another surprising trait.

National Geographic

“There’s no other way to say it,” Schroeder declared. “They’re fairly cute animals.” It couldn’t be denied, even to the shaken authorities, that the sea lion looked good on camera. She actually posed for a selfie with Sgt. Corey Huffine! One thing was clear to the officers.

Sgt. Corey Huffline

No matter how threatening she was, they wouldn’t be able to wrangle her back to the water anytime that night. They hoped that monitoring her overnight while she waddled her way back to the water would be the extent of their involvement…but they were wrong.

Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

The police received another 911 call, and then another. “The problem was it just kept moving,” Brightbill said. She kept moving alright, just not towards the Columbia river, where she came from. By the time the other officers found her, she was two miles from home.

They couldn’t just sit and stare at her any longer — they needed backup. By Sunday afternoon, crews from the humane society, the county’s public works office, the state wildlife department, and the sheriff’s office had all arrived…and with one unified plan.

Captain America: Civil War/Disney

Their mission? To corral the animal all the way back to the river. The abundance of smelt in the Columbia river made it a popular home for hundreds of sea lions. It was imperative that this wayward sea lion make her way home — and only together could they get her there.

This was easier said than done. The team used large planks of wood to lead the jumpy sea lion in the right direction, making sure to keep their distance if she got frustrated. “I think everybody had a face full of sea lion breath more than once,” Shroeder described.

Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Sea lion breath or not, the mission finally had a lucky break when the sea lion found herself in someone’s driveway. The crews grabbed their wooden plank shields and, as carefully and non-threateningly as possible, slowly guided her towards the cage.

Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

The crews worked slowly in hopes that doing so would keep the sea lion from lashing out. She inched closer and closer to the cage, and for a moment, the authorities could almost taste victory…until she suddenly veered off course.

Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

But as quickly as she’d turned, she was right back where they wanted her to be: Inside the cage. Finally, the sea lion was off the road and out of harm’s way. But the police couldn’t relax just yet.

With the sea lion in tow, the crews drove to Willow Grove boat ramp in Longview, where they returned her to the Columbia River. Schroeder, Brightbill, and the other crew members watched her swim away with just one thought.

Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

They knew that the tale of the lost sea lion and her perplexed rescuers would go down as one of the most bizarre — and adorable! — happenings in Castle Rock. Surprisingly, though, many critters find themselves lost in quiet towns like Castle Rock.

On the rural, back country roads of Carroll, New Hampshire, it’s not uncommon to witness critters crossing the street among the SUVs and pickup trucks. And although that’s usually a no-fuss occurrence, sometimes animals lose their bearings.

New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station

The Town of Carroll Police Department has warned its residents, especially while driving, to beware of moose, deer, and other woodsy wildlife running through the streets. Though it’s common, this particular incident is anything but.

When a Carroll resident was driving along a quiet road near Bretton Woods Ski resort, a family of black bears, led by a fierce mama bear, stopped the driver in his tire tracks.

Noticing that the mama bear was hesitant for some reason, he immediately called the police, hoping that wildlife experts could shed some light on a situation that didn’t make a ton of sense to him.

State trooper Thomas Owens arrived to clear the road and save the day. Considering baby bears need to stick by their mother’s side for approximately one-and-a-half years before leaving the ‘nest’, Thomas was a bit concerned that one of the four babies couldn’t keep up.

Thomas watched, noticing that the runt of the litter, so to speak, seemed unsure, frightened, and paralyzed in the middle of the road. Because of how the circle of life tends to work, Thomas was worried for this cub’s future.

North American Bear Center

Considering the mama bear halted in the middle of the road, pacing back and forth, waiting for her weakest little one to catch up to the group, she seemed to have an inkling that this baby might not be fit enough to carry on.

Town of Carroll Police Department

Sadly, mothers often have to move on in situations such as these, so as not to put the rest of the cubs at risk. According to the North American Bear Center, bear litters consisting of more than three are often weaker and stand less of a chance at surviving.

Thomas watched the mama bear and her four babies dawdle in the street as he directed traffic around them. In his head, the state trooper was rooting for the feeble little one, praying that he’d catch up. It soon became clear that additional help was needed.

Town of Carroll Police Department / Facebook

It’s quite the majestic experience to witness a family of wild black bears crawling around mere feet from you — an experience that begs for a photo shoot — so the mama bear may have felt threatened by the overwhelming amount of people gawking at them.

Eric Paul Zamora

Considering black bears would often rather result to flight than fight (as opposed to the aggressive grizzly bear), the crowd of mesmerized onlookers probably scared her off, leaving her unable to protect her weakest. She had to move on with her three strong cubs.

Regency Enterprises

The knight in shining armor saw that the runt was left behind and decided it was time to call for backup. Thomas contacted Fish and Wildlife Services in order to have a professional come and transport the weak cub. Authorities soon made an interesting connection.

Thankfully, the frail cub was immediately brought to safety at a rehabilitation center in Lyme. But the police realized something oddly familiar about the incident, as something almost identical happened in Carroll just 24 hours prior.

Town of Carroll Police Department / Facebook

Another officer rescued a different Carroll bear cub just the day before. The Town of Carroll Police Department officers pondered if perhaps these two bear cubs were from the same litter. Though a litter of four is already somewhat rare, could it have been a litter of five?

Town of Carroll Police Department / Facebook

The North American Bear Center reports that mother bears usually have just one or two babies in her first litter, so having five was nearly unbelievable! After the police department did some investigating, it was confirmed that these two isolated cubs were from the same litter.

Erik Mandre

“This leaves her with three other very healthy cubs that she can now focus on and take care of,” the department stated regarding the mama bear.

Town of Carroll Police Department

To clarify, this mama did all that she could, even managing to keep all five of them warm and safe in the den since January. She did well. But everyone needs a little help every now and again, even the fiercest of mama black bears.

North American Bear Center

Both cubs were taken to rehab centers in hopes that, with the help of veterinarians and modern medicine, they’d eventually grow strong enough to return to the wild and become independent.

Darcy Rose / Cornell Uuniversity

“Please use this as a reminder to keep bears wild and not feed them human food or from your vehicle (even if they are adorable),” state police urged, also clarifying that the black bears were handled by professionals, and that the public should never approach wild animals.

It’s heartwarming to know that these fragile cubs weren’t left for dead (as bleak as that sounds), and that they’re now under great care. These two four-legged babies needed human assistance, which isn’t a common occurrence, but it’s not unheard of.

Shelley Jacques

Rescuing babies may not sound so scary, but imagine rescuing an adult bear. It’s not often that wild animals wander into our personal space — they typically want to avoid us at all costs — but on the rare occasion that they do, they can get into some serious trouble.

Bears, for example, aren’t exactly the kind of animal you’d consider helpless. Still, they’re curious, and that can sometimes leave them between a rock and a hard place. This was no more evident than the case of one bear in Alligator Point on St. James Island in Florida…

The 375-pound black bear had been sniffing around the neighborhood when he wandered into a home. Wildlife conservation officers were called to sedate him and safely relocate him to the wild, but moments after he was shot with a tranquilizer, things started to go wrong.

It may sound harsh to shoot an animal, even by strictly non-lethal means, but the wildlife officers had no choice. As much as the bear wanted nothing more than to mind his own business, he would have encountered a human soon enough.

Even though using a tranquilizer was the humane option to ensure the bear and area residents stayed safe, there were no guarantees the process would go the way they planned it…

Of course, that plan quickly backfired. Instead of the dart sedating him, it immediately sent the bear into a panic. The wildlife officers readied themselves for the worst, but they didn’t realize just how bad things were about to get.

The large bear, who must have been terrified by the officers chasing him, made a beeline toward the nearby water—and he began swimming out as far as he could. Unfortunately, that was when the sedative started to kick in.

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The drowsy bear clearly couldn’t keep himself afloat—and he began to drown! Adam Warwick, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, knew that he had to act quickly.

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Without hesitating, the fearless and determined Adam dove into the water and swam toward the huge bear. Most people couldn’t imagine doing something quite so brave, but to him, it made perfect sense… at least in the moment.

“It was a spur of the moment decision. I had a lot of adrenaline pumping when I saw the bear in the water,” Adam later said of the experience. Thank goodness for that adrenaline, otherwise he would have known how dangerous it truly was. What if the bear attacked him?

Adam didn’t have time to think twice: he grabbed the enormous bear with both hands and wrapped his arms around his neck. Then he started to kick toward shallow water where the other wildlife officers were waiting…

The bear wasn’t entirely asleep, and he was understandably distressed. He frantically tried to climb on top of Adam in an effort to stay afloat, but he was losing the ability to move his legs.

Despite his stressful—and incredibly risky—mission, Adam stayed as calm as he could as he approached more shallow water. He grabbed the bear by the scruff of his neck and carefully led him toward the rescue boat.

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Thankfully, Adam was able to pull the powerful predator roughly 25 yards toward dry land. Moving the bear might’ve seemed (relatively) easy in the water, but it was a different story on the shore!

The unusual pair finally made it to the rest of the rescue team, in one piece. Though the bear was sedated, he could have lunged at Adam or swiped at him with his claws at any moment…

Incredibly, Adam suffered only one scratch during the entire ordeal. Other than that, he was perfectly fine! Who would have known that he’d come out of this risky mission relatively unscathed?

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Adam’s colleagues stepped in to help the exhausted man and beast collect their bearings. It was going to take a lot of people—and a lot of bravery along the way, much like anyone in this type of situation…

The team drove a large tractor toward the water’s edge to transport the groggy bear back to his home in Osceola National Forest. There was no way they would’ve been able to carry a 375-pound animal without a little help!

Thankfully, the bear didn’t suffer any injuries after his wild jaunt in the water. It was safe to say that he probably wouldn’t go anywhere near water for awhile following this experience.

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Most importantly, this massive bear was safe and back in a habitat that suited him best. Hopefully by now he’s learned to avoid wandering into residential neighborhoods!

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