An adult bear that wandered around Solvang on Saturday night received a one-way ticket back to the wilderness rather than a Danish welcome.
Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies and personnel from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife responded Saturday night to the report of a bear in the city’s downtown area.
The animal was reported at about 9:30 p.m. in the alcove of a business on the 1600 block of Mission Drive, according to Raquel Zick, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
The weekend’s hot weather might have attracted the critter, which appeared to be overheated and may have been looking for water, according to Lt. Jamie Dostal from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Downtown Solvang, normally filled with tourists, has become a ghost town instead due to the stay-at-home orders related to the coronavirus, likely helping the bear’s unimpeded path into the city, Dostal said.
“With all the restrictions in place, there might have been less activity so he could travel in further,” Dostal said.
The male bear reportedly weighed 350 to 400 pounds “which is quite large.”
A big bear can sometimes suggest an older animal, but the condition of the bruin’s teeth seemed to hint he wasn’t that old, Dostal said.
“We don’t think he was an elderly bear, but definitely an adult,” Dostal said.
After darting the animal with a tranquilizer, Fish and Wildlife representatives gave the bear a quick exam.
“It was actually in really good health,” Dostal said.
Officers on scene received help from heavy equipment in lifting the animal into a truck for its trek out of the city.
“It was that big,” Dostal said.
The capture and relocation to a remote site 10 miles northeast of Solvang went smoothly for the most part.
However, his large size also meant officers had to deploy more tranquilizer darts than normal to ensure their safety before relocating the animal.
That also meant it took him longer than normal to wake up, with Fish and Wildlife officers remaining nearby for the bear’s safety until 9 a.m. Sunday.
“We have to wait there and make sure that they’re able to walk on their own, just to be sure no predators come over to him and do anything to him,” Dostal said.
Bear and other wildlife encounters occur occasionally throughout Santa Barbara County. But why they wind up visiting populated areas remains a mystery.
“We really don’t know. It’s all just kind of guessing,” Dostal said.
This isn’t the first wildlife visitor in North County since shelter-in-place orders went into effect.
In late March, a mountain lion ambled through an Orcutt neighborhood, where it was tranquilized and relocated away from residences.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.