A young patient sauntered into a medical clinic Friday morning and got prompt treatment — a tranquilizer dart and a quick trip back to the wilds. But again, this patient was the four-legged kind: a young black bear that was probably hungry from a winter of hibernation.
"He did not have an appointment," said Todd Sandman, director of public relations for Presbyterian Health Care Services.
The 125-pound male bear, perhaps 2 to 3 years old, wandered into the Presbyterian Medical Group gastroenterology laboratory around 7:15 a.m., Sandman said.
The bear got in through an automatic door at the lab, a stand-alone building off one the main drags in Rio Rancho, north of Albuquerque.
"There were just a handful of people there, before the time when it was really open for appointments — I think a nurse, perhaps a receptionist and a patient and spouse," Sandman said.
"I think the person in the waiting room was pretty surprised."
Everyone was safely evacuated, he said.
"Apparently, the bear was very calm and retreated into a side room and then further into a bathroom," said Dan Williams, a New Mexico Department of Game and Fish spokesman. An officer fired a tranquilizer dart, sedating the bear in a little more than a minute.
The bear was released in the Manzano Mountains, about 20 miles to the southeast, but not before being tagged on an ear "so we'll recognize him if we see him again," Williams said.
Wandering bears are not that unusual in the area, he added. "They get displaced from their dens. Their mothers kick them off, and they're kind of looking for a place of their own, looking for food."