Elusive Mesa bear caught Christmas morning

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

MESA, Ariz. -- The black bear that kept Arizona wildlife managers on their toes earlier this week has been captured.

An officer with the Arizona Game and Fish Department tranquilized the bear after authorities spotted it and followed it to a neighborhood in the area near U.S. 60 and Loop 202 early Christmas morning.

It was in the backyard of a home when AGFD finally caught up with it. Officers with AFGD and the Mesa Police Department set up a perimeter to contain it while the AGFD officer took his shot.

Nobody was home at the time.

Cory Vaske, who lives south of the U.S. 60 near Sossaman Road, said he had just finished wrapping Christmas presents around 6 a.m. when he went outside and spotted the bear.

"Sitting here in my chair and a bear just literally walks right down the street," he said. "The last thing you expect is to walk out in the morning and see a bear walking down the street."

Vaske called 911, and an officer who was already in the area responded with other officers.

"It was an exciting Christmas morning to say the least," he said.

The bear captivated TV viewers across the Valley early Monday when it romped through some fields in Mesa. AGFD officers were not able to tranquilize the bear at the time, but waited patiently as it hunkered down in a fenced area with heavy brush near the old General Motor proving grounds near Pecos and Ellsworth Road.

"The behaviors this bear exhibited were all normal," Tim Holt, an AGFD field supervisor said Monday. "They're afraid of people he was running away from people."

There were reports that the bear was spotted again Tuesday morning.

Darren Julian, an urban wildlife specialist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said the bear is a male, probably about 2 or 3 years old. Julian estimated its weight to be about 125 pounds.

"We only get one to two bears a year down here in the Valley," Holt sad.

Authorities gave the bear a checkup and found it to be healthy. They released it in the Tonto National Forest.

"I'm glad they were able to catch him. I was scared a little bit," Vaske said. "First bear I've seen in a while, I'm sitting on a chair in front of my house."

Black bears are the smallest North American bears. A full-grown male black bear can weigh up to 400 pounds. Black bears, which are most active at dawn and dusk, can live up to 25 years in the wild.