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Bear wanders Phoenix suburb, eludes authorities

Wildlife officers said they want to return the young bear to the mountains.

By Ben Hooper

QUEEN CREEK, Ariz., Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Authorities in Arizona said they are searching for a bear spotted wandering in a field outside of Phoenix so they can return it to the mountains.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said it received a call just prior to 7 a.m. Monday about a bear seen wandering through alfalfa fields and crossing a major road in Queen Creek, a suburb of Phoenix.

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Video footage was captured of the bear as deputies pursued it with help from the Mesa Police Department and the Arizona Department of Game and Fish, but the search was called off after the animal wandered into an area of dense brush. Wildlife officers said it could be days before the bear emerges from the foliage.

Experts said the animal, a young bear estimated to weigh about 200 pounds, likely came down from the mountains to search for food and new territory.

"We've had a very, very warm fall so I'm not surprised that his body might be a little confused and he doesn't seem to be underweight to me," Grey Stafford with the Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium told KTVK-TV.

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Amy Burnett With Arizona Game and Fish said it is not unusual for bears to end up far from their natural habitats when they go searching for new territory.

"Sometimes they get lost and end up in places they're not supposed to be in," she told KTAR-TV.

Authorities said the bear is not considered a threat to the public, but they plan to tranquilize the animal if it resurfaces and give it a health check-up before returning it to the mountains.

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