Black bear seen wandering downtown Healdsburg for more than an hour

Healdsburg is talking about a nocturnal visitor : a black bear that wandered the downtown area for more than an hour. 

Bears aren't often seen in populated parts of Sonoma County, sticking to more remote forests and wild land areas. 

So a video clip shared by Healdsburg Police has been widely viewed.

"That's a big bear, pretty bold," laughed Healdsburg visitor Willem Pennings, when KTVU showed him the video.

In it, a good-sized bear ambles down the sidewalk and turns at the corner, passing a house at Haydon and Fitch Streets.

"He's got nothing to worry about, and I'd be comfortable too, if I was a bear, strolling through town, not a care," said Pennings.

Healdsburg PD was tailing the bear, shooting video and snapping photos as they monitored its whereabouts.

"We say we have wonderful food and wine in Healdsburg, so this is another tourist in town," said Police Sgt. Nick Castaneda.

"In the 33 years that we've been here, we haven't had one like this, it's one of a kind." 

The bear was first spotted about 2 AM Friday, on First Street, on the edge of the Russian River, ambling into town. 

The resident who called police, followed the bear in their car for awhile, then turned the surveillance over to police.

They were concerned because the bear was just a few blocks off the town plaza, and bars were closing, sending people onto the street.

"It's interesting because we take a lot of walks late at night, " said resident John Langlois, who lives in the corner house where the bear was caught on video.

Langlois had no idea there was a bear outside, but his dog Max did.

The Jack Russell terrier began barking wildly, so Langlois let him out into the yard.

"My wife was like 'you just about fed the dog to a bear last night." 

Later, with his neighborhood abuzz, Langlois realized his close encounter. 

"I thought maybe I heard a noise, something rubbing against the house last night, and I thought it was a tree branch," wondered Langlois,"but he might have been in the backyard for all I know." 

After the bear wandered into the parking lot behind police headquarters, patrol cars were used to try to guide it out. 

"Giving him a little space and time, and using their spotlights to trying to give him a way out," explained Sgt. Castaneda. 

One officer who was part of that police escort said the bear seemed lost and confused.

"Kind of skittish and scared, just running around," said Officer Darryl Erkel, " like it wanted to find its way back into the hills, but couldn't."  

Wildlife officials advised police the best course of action was to keep their distance as long as the bear posed no threat.  

"We tailed it for a good hour, " said Ofc. Erkel, "and it's quite large, when you get up close, it looks much bigger". 

Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan told KTVU, the black bear is probably about two years old, weighs 100 pounds, and appears healthy.

Hughan says like any teenager, the bear may be feeling some spring fever, cruising for food and new territory. 

It was last seen headed toward the hills on Fitch Mountain Road.    

Police don't know if the bear will reappear, but if it does, urge caution. 

"Even though they're beautiful creatures and everybody loves them, we want to make sure people do understand they're wild animals, so steer clear," said Sgt. Castaneda.