OAKLEY, Calif. - Nadine Somerhalder couldn't believe her eyes. Her home surveillance cameras caught a bear strolling across her Oakley driveway, not far from a middle school.
Around 4:30 Friday morning, other neighbors saw the bear on their surveillance cameras, walking from house to house, and leaving a trail of claw prints in its path.
"I really just couldn't believe it," Somerhalder said. "I watched the video over and over and over again, there was no mistaking it. it was a bear! There were no words, I was speechless," she said.
Oakley Police began searching for the bear at 8 a.m. and called in extra help from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Contra Costa Animal Services Department, and the East Bay Regional Park District.
Police and other crews did not locate the bear or anyone who had come directly in contact with it, by the end of the day Friday. Crews are hopeful the bear decided to head back to its habitat on its own.
"It could be anywhere, we don't know," Tangie Moore said. She locked her patio door and house windows after learning of the bear sighting from her sister.
"You're kind of like on your tippy-toes about this. You don't know if you walk out your front door, you're going to see a bear facing you," Moore said.
On the Oakley City Facebook page, residents speculated over where the bear came from. Some suggested it was an exotic pet that got loose, while others wondered if it had hitched a ride on someone's pickup truck that returned to Oakley after a Memorial Day camping trip.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has its own theory, believing that last year's wildfires and the worsening drought are depleting natural food sources.
"It's kind of easy to imagine that if the wildfires burn up a lot of any animal's food resource, and then the rain isn't there to replenish them, then wildlife might go elsewhere and start looking for new food resources,' Ken Paglia, public information officer with the CDFW said. "That's I think when you get these scattered instances of seeing wildlife in more urban areas," he added.
Paglia said it's more common during the summer months for crews to respond to the occasional backyard bear. But the first week of June is unusually early timing another indication the drought may be why this bear came to town.
Residents should call local law enforcement if they come across the bear, and are reminded not to approach it.
Vinnie Angelo alerted his neighbors to stay inside and avoid nature hikes Friday, heeding warnings from city officials.
"Don't run from it, avoid going out there, don't feed it," Angelo said. "Basically, have some common sense with a wild animal."