MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona wildlife managers say they believe the black bear that was spotted twice this week in a Phoenix suburb but eluded capture finally has been caught.
The bear was captured Christmas morning in the backyard of an empty home in eastern Mesa. Authorities spotted the animal around 5 a.m. and followed it to a neighborhood. Mesa police set up a perimeter, and a wildlife officer shot it with a tranquilizer dart.
"It climbed a 6-foot block wall fence and then promptly went to sleep, and we were able to capture it safely. It was a great, happy ending to the story," Arizona Game and Fish Department spokeswoman Amy Burnett told KSAZ-TV (http://bit.ly/1EjYxuV ).
Burnett said the bear — a 125-pound male that's about 2 to 3 years old — likely will be relocated to the Tonto National Forest after it's evaluated.
Officials said the sighting was rare for the Phoenix metro area, where a bear is spotted once every couple of years.
The animal was first spotted Monday, when TV news helicopters captured video of the bear bounding across an alfalfa field on the outskirts of Mesa and then standing within feet of a game warden wielding a tranquilizer gun.
The bear proved elusive after it entered a former General Motors test site filled with shrubbery and trees. Officials decided the site was too large to search.
Residents spotted the animal again before dawn Tuesday. Authorities searched near the Mesa airport but found nothing.
The sightings sparked chatter on social media, including someone setting up a Twitter account for "Mesa Bear." By Thursday, the account had more than 400 followers.
It's unknown where the bear came from or how long it had been in the area. Black bears are the only species of bears living in Arizona, with an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 of them in the state, wildlife officials say.
Information from: KSAZ-TV, http://www.myfoxphoenix.com