Bear in Petaluma tree comes down, wanders off

Authorities gave a large bear time and space to climb down a tree and eventually, after 15 hours, the animal left a Petaluma neighborhood on its own.   

Police warned the public about 2:30 a.m. Sunday after the bear was first sighted in the city, advising people to shelter indoors after the bear was seen in the area of 6th and I streets.   

A few hours later, another advisory was issued in the 20 block of Raymond Heights, two blocks away from the first sighting, where the bear had clambered up a tall tree.   

Petaluma residents were surprised to get an early morning Nixle alert to shelter-in-place because a bear was on the loose near downtown. 

Initially, Tom Limbert's dog went ballistic, causing him to look outside. 

"What was strange was that the gate that goes into our neighbor's yard was open and we never open it. So, that's we we though it was a person," Limbert said. 

The limbers weren't the only ones who came out to see the strange sight: A bear 85-feet up in a tree.

 "We've had mountain lions here and more sightings, here but a bear is new to me and I've been here for 17 years," Eliza Fischer said.

Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue officials said fires and drought have severely reduced foraging and game.

 "So, they're coming down a little closer to our cities. People have garbage, people have cat food, all the things the bears are desperately trying to find food," said Doris Duncan, executive director of Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue.

The trick is trying to get the bear out of the neighborhood safely.

 "It's scaring the bear and scaring it is putting it mildly. Terrifying is more the word," Duncan said. "Give them a space and an angle to get out, they'll usually take that."

Officer Mark Scott of North Bay Animal Services said the bear is up far too high to tranquilize and officials fear that tranquilizing the animal would cause it to fall and it might die. 

 "So, we're going to try and wait for him to get to a safer level," Scott said. "Or, hopefully, tonight he'll come down on his own and leave when everybody's already back to bed and well obviously stay here until that happens."

The bear did end up coming down from the tree just before 10 p.m. on Sunday, and ambled off near the Petaluma golf and country club, appearing to be headed out of town.