68°
Sunny
WED
 75°
 48°
THU
 72°
 47°
FRI
 71°
 42°
SAT
 72°
 44°
SUN
 71°
 44°

Black bear wanders into Wikiup neighborhood

  • Bear tracks spotted on Wikiup Bridge Way. (COURTESY OF JOBEE FARRER)

The newest resident of the Wikiup neighborhood on Santa Rosa's northern outskirts has a definite swagger and a big behind.

"He struck me as a guy who has been around the block," said Jeff Sengstack, who has lived for 12 years on Vista Grande Drive. "A hefty looking guy, like he was well fed."

He, or perhaps a she, is a black bear who has been nosing around garbage cans for more than a week.

Sengstack and several other neighbors spotted the bear late Sunday after stepping outside to investigate the clang-bang of toppling bins.

"I went out on the balcony with a flashlight — it was definitely a bear," said Karl Reynolds, 61, a liquor salesman and 14-year resident of Wikiup Drive. "It was dragging a white plastic bag down below my house."

The bear prompted several calls to the Department of Fish and Game, starting with a sighting the weekend of Nov. 18 and several others the following weekend.

"It's not uncommon, I'm not totally surprised," said Stacy Martinelli, Fish and Game wildlife biologist for Sonoma County.

Martinelli gets about one call a year for sightings in the area, which backs up to Shiloh Ranch Regional Park to the north and rural properties to the north and east.

Bears that live in the rugged hills that bridge Santa Rosa and Calistoga occasionally wander into more populated areas.

"But this would be the first report of a bear in garbage," Martinelli said.

The common factor of the recent sightings: garbage day.

Residents drag the cans out on Sunday for Monday-morning pickup.

Black bears range anywhere from an 180-pound juvenile to a 400-pound adult male. And they typically eat berries, bugs, carrion and fish, if they can catch them.

Getting a bear hooked on garbage is a recipe for property damage and close encounters, said Martinelli. In the Tahoe area, black bears have been known to break into homes and topple refrigerators.

The key will be convincing this bear that there's no easy food in Wikiup.

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