SAN ANSELMO, Calif. - San Anselmo became bear country for several hours on Thursday.
A black bear weighing about 200 pounds was spotted in a backyard, triggering a local shelter-in-place precaution.
The bear was about 40 feet up in a tree near Tamalpais Avenue and Cedar Street.
That's where people gathered for a glimpse as word spread.
"It's scary but also really exciting," said a young boy, summing up the spectator mood.
Bears have only been spotted in Marin County a few times since 2003.
To see one in a populated area, just a few blocks from downtown, was especially unusual.
"The bear experts have told us the bear is more scared of us than probably we are of him, but the plan is to clear everyone off the streets," said Margo Rohrbacher, of the Central Marin Police Agency.
The young black bear appeared healthy and showed no aggression, even appearing to doze off occasionally.
"It's majestic and beautiful but it must be scared," said neighbor Natalie Harvey, who was among those watching. "I hike and I think about mountain lions all the time, but I've never heard of a bear around here."
The initial strategy, while wildlife officers were en route, was to keep the bear in the tree by banging pots and pans together to create a clamor down below.
Once experts arrived, the approach changed.
They wanted a quiet, calm environment so the bear would be comfortable coming down on its own.
So the backyard and streets were cleared.
"Fish and Game are back there and they will wait for the bear to come down to the ground and then they're going to scare it so it can make its way back to Mount Tam," said Rohrbacher.
And in time it did descend, and then with officers monitoring and shoo-ing when necessary, it traveled west and disappeared into the open space.
Not a completely clean getaway, however, as the bear busted through a fence, flattening it in his hurry back to the wild.
The escape was accomplished without patience and without tranquilizers.
State wardens try to avoid additional stress or injury to wayward bears whenever possible.
Sometimes, when bears have been darted with sedatives, they climb even higher, then fall asleep and fall from their perch.
"This was a great resolution, we're really pleased he's fine and headed back to where he belongs, and he's probably relieved too," said Rohrbacher.
This is the time of year adolescent black bears break away from their mothers in search of their own territory.
Sometimes, following the scent of food or simply disoriented, they end up in unusual places.
"The bear is lost and doesn't mean harm to anybody, it's probably just trying to find water," said neighbor The Justine Flaster, relieved at the peaceful conclusion.
Last week Sonoma County also had two bear sightings in residential areas, one in Cotati and one in Sebastopol.
In every case, people are urged to secure their outdoor garbage cans and pet food because they can be an attraction.