Police were caught off guard by an unbearable sight in Yuba City early Wednesday.
A young black bear seemed to have gotten lost, officials say, and was roaming a neighborhood.
Yuba City police received the call of a bear sighted around midnight in the area of Harter Parkway and Butte House Road, Yuba City Police Commander Tom Tappe said.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” Tappe said. “He was a young bear, just over 5 feet tall when standing.”
Police called the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. An official recommended leaving the bear alone in hopes it would make its way back to its habitat. The bear took off, but around 2:30 a.m., another citizen called about the bear. It had made its way to the area of Ainsley Avenue, just east of Gray Avenue. Another officer followed the bear for a short distance and was able to corral it in the area of Williams Way, where it climbed up a tree, Tappe said.
The Yuba City Fire Department, a local trapper, and Sutter County-area Game Warden Casey McVay responded and used a tranquilizer to get the bear out of the tree. He was put into a cage and into the custody of Fish and Wildlife.
McVay said the young male bear was successfully released Wednesday morning into the mountains east of Marysville.
“Typically, they’ll travel the river corridors – he could have come down the Yuba River, or Honcut (Creek) along the Feather or even the Sacramento,” McVay said. “It’s unusual, but not unheard of.”
He’s received a couple unconfirmed bear sightings along the river areas and one was even found in Colusa years ago.
The young male bear is estimated to be two or three years old and out on his own for the first time; McVay said young bears usually leave their mothers around the two-year-old mark. It’s likely the bear just got lost and ended up in the residential areas of Yuba City.
“He’s healthy, just trying to figure out how to be a bear,” McVay said.
The bear was a good weight, had no limp, albeit a bit groggy, and ran off into the mountains with no problem, McVay said. Typically, wardens don’t like to move bears if they believe they can find their own way back home. In this instance, though, officials were concerned for the bear’s safety.
“At no point during any of his time in town was he a threat to anybody whatsoever,” McVay said.
Though this bear was brown in color, he is a black bear; all bears in California are black bears, Capt. Patrick Foley of the Department of Fish and Wildlife said. There used to be grizzly bears in the state – look at the California state flag – but the last one was shot and killed in 1922 in Tulare County. There are variations of the grizzly bear elsewhere, but the California grizzly that existed in lower elevations is extinct. Those ate beached whales and elk. McVay said bears do not live in the Sutter Buttes – it gets too hot, doesn’t have a great water source and there are too many people.