Lompoc Police Chief Pat Walsh was among those who had a black bear under surveillance Sunday evening in La Purisima Highlands. (Pat Walsh photo)

A black bear who visited a Lompoc neighborhood ended up leaving on his own as wardens watched the departure since the animal didn’t act aggressively or display health problems.

“Really, all we did last night is monitor the bear’s movement and try to assess its health condition,” said Jamie Dostal, a warden with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

Wardens were called after the bear was spotted in the La Purisima Highlands neighborhood Sunday night. 

“At this point, we’re hoping he’s moved back to where he was living before,” Dostal added Monday.

Lompoc Police Chief Pat Walsh noted the sighting Sunday night on Twitter, saying it answered the question of whether Lompoc has bears.

“So the answer is, ‘yes’ there are bears in Lompoc,” Walsh said via his Twitter account. He also posted a photo showing the animal from afar.

Dostal estimated the lone adult black bear weighed between 150 and 200 pounds. Since responding wardens couldn’t get closer to the animal, they don’t know if it was male or female.

“It appeared to be healthy,” Dostal said. “There didn’t appear to be any injuries.”

Wardens watched as the bear left the neighborhood, worried it might head toward busy Highway 1 where it could be struck by a car.

However, the animal moved behind the old drive-in theater and into the riverbed, heading upstream toward Highway 246.

They were concerned the animal might veer back toward the more populated area of the city, but were hopeful a thick woody area would serve as a barrier to keep the bear in a remote location.

Wardens prefer to take a hands-off approach in bear incidents, Dostal said, since tranquilizing the animal and relocating it can lead to other problems.

In his 20 years on the job, Dostal said he recalls just one other bear incident in Lompoc, noting they are more common in Santa Ynez Valley, around Santa Barbara and even near Santa Maria.

“Lompoc is kind of a rare area to have a bear appear,” Dostal said.

It’s difficult to say if the bear was pushed toward populated areas in search of water, Dostal added.

“That’s definitely a possibility that it was drought related,” he added.

To avoid attracting wild animals, Dostal recommended residents should remove any possible water sources or food sources. Pets should be locked up overnight since wild animals are more active in evening and near dawn.

“We just want people to be aware we do have wildlife like that in the county,” Dostal said. “People don’t have to be paranoid, but they should be alert.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.