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Black bear captured in Tampa neighborhood

Tampa, Florida -- A 300-pound black bear wandered into a Tampa neighborhood this morning and up a tree before wildlife officials captured the animal by shooting it with two tranquilizer darts.

Eloy Perez first spotted the bear in the backyard home at 2817 Broad Street W. after letting his dog outside.

"The dog saw it behind the oak tree and went up to it and started barking at (the bear)," Perez recalled.

Once Perez was able to get his dog inside he called 911.

Click here to listen to the 9-1-1 call

"I told them a bear is in my neighborhood. They hesitated for a minute I think they thought I was crazy."

When deputies from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office arrived, the bear climbed up the oak tree in Perez's backyard. The bear remained there until officials were able to shoot him with two tranquilizer darts. 

Pictures: Giant black bear spotted in Tampa tree!

A few minutes later, the bear then fell about 18 feet onto a blue tarp being held by several officials in an attempt to break the animal's fall.

Daryl Amerson, the FWC official who shot the bear said the animal was likely drawn to the area on a search for food.

"He's just looking for free lunch, Yogi Bear likes free lunch," Amerson.

In the mid-70's, the state population of black bears was down to 300. But today, thanks to conservation efforts, the population in Florida has risen to 3,000. 

FWC spokesperson Gary Morse says the greater number of black bears along with urban sprawl is making these types of encounters more common.

"We are quickly running out of bear habitat in this state and these bears are moving because they're either being forced out, or are looking for mates, and they're having trouble finding them."

Ironically, officials said the bear captured Friday had also been trapped and tagged in downtown Orlando last year. He was then released in the Ocala National Forest. But the bear has apparently be moving south in recent months, traveling mostly at night.

"We've been basically tracking this bear from Citrus County down into the Tampa area for about the last 2-weeks. We've tracked him through citizen phone calls," Morse noted.

It's believed today's bear is also the same bear spotted in a Spring Hill neighborhood two weeks ago.

After being trapped a second time, officials say they will once again release him in the Ocala National Forest.

"It was unbelievable, I still don't believe it," Perez said as the bear was driven away.

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