HELENA -- A black bear romped through Fawn Meadow Estates on Sunday afternoon, creating photo ops, jumping fences and spooking nearby cattle.
“It was cool. It’s the first time I really saw a bear and basically in my backyard,” said 9-year-old Preslie Smith, whose family lives in the subdivision located just east of the Interstate 15 Frontage Drive north of Helena.
The roughly 100-pound bear was first spotted by Todd Crum on Munger Road.
Crum said he saw the male bear standing in the middle of the roadway so he pulled over to snap a photo. Just after the picture was clicked, the bear stood up on his hind legs.
“Then he really got my attention,” Crum said.
In the excitement, Crum neglected to save the photo. He then watched the bear hop a few fences and venture through his neighbors’ backyards.
Crum said both the 911 dispatchers, whom he called, and his neighbors whom he attempted to warn at first did not accept his tale about the bear.
“Nobody believed me at first, I don’t think,” he said.
Crum tracked the bear as it frolicked from yard to yard.
Sheriff’s deputies and game wardens arrived on scene as the bear hid in nearby cottonwood trees along Ten Mile Creek.
Bears "put their nose down in the creek bottom, and, once they lift their nose up, they are all of a sudden in a Helena subdivision,” game warden Dave Loewen explained.
Loewen said the dry and hot weather conditions often bring wildlife -- bears especially -- closer to civilization. The animals are trying to fatten up for winter and are searching for food.
“They are looking for anything to eat at all,” he said.
Loewen urged residents to take precautions such as putting away barbecues, dog food and bird feeders.
Authorities tranquilized the bear and trapped it without further incident. Once the animal recovers, it will be released into the forest.
Loewen said other bears will probably be found in residential areas in the time leading up to winter.
Preslie’s mother, Shannon Smith, said that, while this is the first bear that her family has seen near their home, wildlife sightings are commonplace. She has seen a moose, fox and golden eagles among other critters.
“It’s like Wild Kingdom out here,” Shannon Smith said.