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A little black bear made it to the really wrong side of the railroad tracks and got darted for his trouble in downtown Missoula on Wednesday afternoon.

The 70-pound yearling boar was first spotted along East Broadway near where Rattlesnake Creek flows toward the Clark Fork River. Missoula resident Jim Caron was parking his car by the intersection of Pine and Jefferson streets, a block away from the MCT Theater building, when the bear confronted him.

"He took about four steps toward me," Caron said. "Then he stood up and went up the tree."

The bear climbed a big maple tree and found a resting spot about 30 feet off the ground. As police and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officers gathered below, he lay on the branch swinging his paws in the air.

A crowd of about 30 people gathered to watch as the officers spread a net to catch the bear. FWP wildlife management specialist Bob Wiesner prepared a dart gun as a crew from NorthWestern Energy maneuvered a bucket truck into position by the tree.

Wiesner shot the bear with a tranquilizer and watched for it to start wagging its tongue. The catching crew stretched out the net and braced as the bear lost its grip on the branch. About five minutes after it was darted, the bear tumbled into the net.

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FWP wildlife biologist Vickie Edwards fitted the bear with an oxygen mask and took a series of measurements and samples to check its health. She also tagged the bear for future reference - in case it gets into trouble again. The bear will be relocated outside the city.

Louise and Lawrence Scott of Perth, Australia, recorded the whole incident on their still and video cameras. Louise recalled how in World War II, American soldiers were always talking about the bears back home.

Australians countered with stories about their "drop bears" that attacked from trees. In fact, Louise said, they referred to koala bears that got drunk on eucalyptus nuts and fell off their branches.

"You couldn't organize a better tourist act than this," Lawrence said. "We were just noticing all the bears on the license plates, and then we walk down the street and see a bear in a tree."

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

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