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Catia Ely, 38, was caulking a bathtub at her family's property behind Sturgeons Mill near Occidental this week when she looked outside and saw it.

A cinnamon-colored bear was splayed out on the ground in front of the front door to her cabin, with its nose buried in a compost bin.

"Paws on either side, just going for the good stuff," Ely said.

The creature is most likely one of at least 30,000 California black bears living in the state that usually keep to themselves unless lured into rural neighborhoods by food and garbage left outdoors.

"Right now we're getting a lot of bear reports," said Janice Mackey, Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman.

Wardens and the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office started receiving a peppering of calls one week ago reporting bear sightings between Occidental and Sebastopol.

Neighbors said they've seen a bear in glimpses tromping around the woods around Green Hill Road and surrounding wooded areas. People posting photos online reported sightings within a swath of woodlands from western Sebastopol to Occidental and Camp Meeker.

Wardens visited the neighborhood and called residents to talk about keeping garbage indoors and other measures to avoid tempting the bear to become dependent on human food, Mackey said.

The wardens also spotted the bear, although Mackey said she did not know when or where. The bear didn't exhibit aggressive behavior and they haven't received reports of a bear breaking into any homes. They expect the animal to move on, Mackey said.

"Bears are waking up from hibernation," Mackey said. "During spring, there's dispersal among young bears going out foraging and looking for their own spot."

Last November, a bear spent several days tipping and digging into garbage cans in north Santa Rosa's Wikiup neighborhood. Neighbors began washing out cans and keeping full bins inside garages. The bear eventually moved on, said Jeff Sengstack of Vista Grande Drive.

"We have not seen it since," Sengstack said.

Early Sunday, Bruce Fortin, 72, was returning to his Occidental-area home from a meditation group in Sebastopol when a bear crossed in front of him on Green Hill Road.

The sight took his breath away.

"It wakes you up," said Fortin, a psychotherapist and Zen teacher.

After the animal passed, a pickup coming from the opposite direction pulled up next to Fortin's car and each driver rolled down his window.

"We both said, 'Did you see the bear?'" Fortin said.

Later Sunday, Dominique Ridley was sitting on an upper-story deck downhill from Ely's property off Green Hill Road when she stood up and saw it.

A bear walked down her driveway.

"I was thrilled, I was absolutely thrilled, thinking 'Oh my God, am I really watching a bear walk down the driveway right now?'" Ridley said.

The bear was cinnamon-colored and lanky, not fat and roly poly like an older bear, said Ridley, who works at Tierra Vegetables.

She grabbed her daughter, 6-year-old Marisol, and showed her the bear.

"It sat by a stump for a minute, looked at us, then wandered back into the trees," Ridley said.

For more information about encounters with bears and other wildlife, visit the Fish and Wildlife's "Keep Me Wild" website at www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.