VACAVILLE, Calif. - Vacaville police were keeping a close eye on a wayward bear that was caught on video hanging out in a tree on Monday.
Police said the bear was last seen in the 200 block of North Orchard Avenue. It’s a residential area and not far from Willis Jepson Middle School as well as Hemlock and Orchard elementary schools.
Police told KTVU that officers were on the three campuses as students arrived to school to ensure their safety.
Officers first received reports of the bear being sighted near the outskirts of town on Sunday night. The animal was believed to be a juvenile bear, two to three years old and about 250 pounds.
Police said it appeared the animal had lost its way as it was forging for food. "He was doing his bear thing at night and ended up in the city," Sgt. Aaron Potter said.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife was called in to help as officers tried to urge him back into his natural habitat.
Ultimately police decided the best course of action would be to let the bear be and hope it would make its back into the hills.
"Our current plan is to observe the bear and not take direct action unless he poses a threat," police shared on Facebook on Monday.
They warned residents, "If you see the bear, the safest course of action will be to avoid him, keep doors and windows closed, and consider bringing any pets inside."
Police noted that Solano County was a natural habitat for black bears and that in recent years there, have been increased reports of bear sightings. "They’re starting to repopulate the area," Potter explained.
He said officers planned to remain patrolling the neighborhoods until they could be sure the bear went back into the wild, and returned to "greener pastures," so to speak.
The bear was seen wandering along North Orchard Avenue on Monday morning. He was spotted running through yards, he hopped a few fences, and climbed a neighbor’s tree.
As of late Monday afternoon, fish and wildlife officials told KTVU the bear remained in a resident's yard where it was taking a nap, but still was not presenting a threat. So officials said they would continue to "step back... essentially give it a chance to go back on its own."
"Since this bear hasn’t acted aggressively we are going to back off and we are going to give it the chance to go back to its habitat on its own," said Ken Paglia with the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"It’s exciting and sad, poor little bear," said neighbor Linda Barba.
"I was little shocked," said resident Willa Sheppard. She said the bear spent some time exploring her front yard. She was at home knitting, when one of her neighbors called to alert her. "He was just running around the yard. I think he was trying to figure out how to get out of the yard because it’s fenced. And he went down to the grapefruit tree and stood up on his front legs," said Sheppard.
Cortney Wiltsey shot some video of the bear on her cell phone. Her kids were at school and she was watching a 2-year-old when they spotted the animal out the window.
"She just thought it was the coolest thing," said Wiltsey about the 2-year-old. "She was at the zoo last week, so I kept asking her, is it like being at the zoo?"
By Tuesday, if the bear remained, fish and wildlife experts said they would reevaluate the situation and consider a plan to dart the animal with a tranquilizer and then relocate it back to its natural habitat.