A bear that wandered in a Saddlebrooke neighborhood Sunday was tranquilized then put down by an Arizona Game and Fish officer.

Photo courtesy Dan Hoshino

A bear was killed in SaddleBrooke Sunday by the Arizona Game and Fish Department after it would not leave an area near several homes and showed signs of being too comfortable around humans.

Residents reported seeing the bear at 1:15 a.m. and just before 5:30 a.m.

Game and Fish officers encountered the bear beneath a palo verde tree near Mesa Crest Court and SaddleBrooke Drive when they arrived about 6:30 a.m., said Mark Hart, a department spokesman.

Pinal County sheriff's deputies told Game and Fish officers the bear would not leave, despite repeated attempts to drive it away, Hart said. A deputy shot at the bear four times, once using a rubber buckshot and three times with rubber slugs, but the bear still would not move, Hart said.

"It appeared to be relatively unafraid of humans," Hart said, adding that officials were able to get within 10 feet of the bear.

"It's unusual for a bear not to be driven off by a hazing technique like rubber buckshots. They're fairly timid creatures."

Officials believed the bear had been foraging for food because the fur around it's mouth was matted, Hart said.

"When bears become accustomed to eating human food, they can be quite relentless in their pursuit of it," he said.

The bear walked into a culvert beneath SaddleBrooke Road, where a Game and Fish officer tranquilized it and then put it down, Hart said.

Officials made the decision to euthanize the 3-year-old bear because of its behavior and because it was a male. Female bears and cubs are usually relocated, but males are known to return to their territory, often traveling long distances after being relocated, Hart said.

"Male bears get treated a little differently because they can become extremely aggressive," he said. "Male bears that are close to residential areas, that are exhibiting no fear of humans, that won't be driven off and have been apparently foraging in garbage need to be put down.

"It's not something we want to do ever, but that was a public safety issue in our determination there."

Bear tips

• Be sure to secure all food sources. Bears looking for food are attracted to household garbage, bird feeders, gardens and fruit-bearing trees.

• If you are approached by a bear, make yourself as large as possible by standing and waving your arms and making loud noises. Do not run and do not play dead. Give the bear time to leave, and if it does not leave, stay calm, continue facing it and back away.

• To report a bear sighting in your neighborhood, call 628-5376 or 1-800-352-0700 after hours.

Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.