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Tranquilized bear stuck in Oxnard tree

May 4, 2010 |  8:42 am

Police, firefighters and wildlife officials were in a standoff with a 200-pound black bear on the loose early Tuesday in a residential area of Oxnard after it scaled a tree and was shot with tranquilizer darts, authorities said.

Residents first spotted the bear running around the residential area on Vineyard Avenue about 2:15 a.m., said Oxnard Police spokesman David Keith.

Officers arrived on the scene and kept track of the bear as it ran through the neighborhood. The animal ran into Santa Clara Cemetery a few blocks away and climbed a tree next to a condominium complex.

The bear descended and ran for a while longer before scaling another tree in the cemetery, where it found a perch about 25 feet above the ground.

Wardens from the state Department of Fish and Game shot the animal with tranquilizer darts, hoping to capture it and release it into a remote area.

By 8 a.m., three wardens were on the scene and firefighters climbed a ladder and worked to hoist the sedated animal into a harness and lower it from the tree without injuring it.

"He seems to be nearly asleep," Keith said. "The problem at this point is that he's found some pretty sturdy branches to rest on."

Authorities are at a loss for how the bear, a rare sight in any residential area, made its way to a heavily populated part of the coastal city of Oxnard, just a few blocks from the 101 Freeway.

One explanation is that bears are simply flourishing in Southern California, according to Harry Morse, a spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Game.

“What we’ve seen all the way up the coast is an increase in bear sightings and bear incidents,” Morse said.

Police in Monrovia — where bear sightings are more common — received 464 calls regarding bears in 2009, according to Morse.

“Bear populations all up and down the coast have been doing quite well,” he said. “Last year, just outside of Oxnard, we had a bear outside an apartment complex."

The most likely scenario for how the bear ended up in Oxnard, according to Morse, is that it wandered down from the hills during the night, crossing fields filled with inviting strawberries in blossom.

“They move at night mainly,” Morse said. “They just keep moving and following little pathways, and they are suddenly way away from where they would normally be seen.”

--Tony Barboza and Carla Hall

Photo:  With the aid of a ladder truck, the Oxnard Fire Department  lowers a tranquilized  bear down from a tree in Santa Clara Cemetery in Oxnard Tuesday morning. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times