By Betty Yu

PETALUMA (KPIX) — A wayward 500-pound black bear safely descended from a Petaluma backyard redwood tree Sunday night, lured out of his sky high hiding spot with the help of fish and other food, ending a day-long standoff with wildlife officials.

The bear walked along the sidewalk and eventually back into nearby open space.

“We see a lot of deer walking up and down the street but not a bear,” said Charlie Llorence of Petaluma.

“We’re really hoping he’s alright, and I know I trust all the people that are trying to help him,” added Jerri Llorence.

The Llorences live within walking distance of where the bear ended up in Raymond Heights.

“We had our binoculars and we could see it just the backside of it and it was really cool,” said Charlie.

For much of the day the bear was the star of the show, mesmerizing neighbors as it took refuge.

At 2:30 a.m., Ralph Haney’s dog began barking so he went outside to discover that his fence had been ripped open.

“We have a few possums around, an occasional skunk,” Haney said. “There’s no way a small rodent did that. Something broke that fence. That took some force.”

Sheila Katz saw what did it when she got home in the early-morning hours.

“I got out of my car and looked down the driveway and saw a bear lumbering, running by, and said, ‘Oh my God, it’s a bear!’ It’s a bear! It’s a bear!’” Katz remembers.

One neighbor snapped a photo of the bear as it crashed through backyards, trying to escape a growing number of police and animal control officers. The terrified bear sought the only safety it could find, climbing 85 feet up a redwood tree.

Mark Scott, executive director of North Bay Animal Services was on the scene and saw it happen.

“He did that in about, I don’t know, about six seconds? So, he’s a big boy — it was amazing to watch,” Scott said.

For the rest of the day that’s where the animal stayed, hiding as best it could behind the foliage as scores of people arrived to take in the unusual sight.

“It’s wildlife! It’s something that we don’t see normally and I guess it’s just the whole mystique of what a bear is,” said Aubrey McMillon.

“It’s one thing to get a mountain lion but you don’t usually hear about a bear,” said Eliza Fischer.

At one point a flock of crows began circling the tree, making a fearful racket, when they discovered what was in it.

Doris Duncan, executive director of Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, said she understood the fascination with seeing something so unusual but hoped people would understand how terrified the bear was in its predicament.

“He got stuck and all the people here have scared him up the tree and he does not feel safe to come down yet,” she said. “Plus, it’s daylight. He knows that he’s going to have some problems if he starts roaming through these streets.”

She said it appeared to be a very healthy male black bear, weighing maybe 500 pounds. It was too high up to use a tranquilizer dart safely so the plan was to just wait for nightfall and let it come down on its own.

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