Apple Valley residents were reminded that they live close to Bear Country when a young black bear was spotted wandering the city this week.

Police received three reports of a juvenile black bear in neighborhoods south of 140th Street, between Galaxie Avenue and Pilot Knob Road, and north of 145th Street on Wednesday evening.

Officials have yet to find the bear, believed to be about 150 pounds.

A caller first spotted the bear a little after 9:45 p.m. going through a yard before walking up a sidewalk, said Apple Valley Police Capt. Michael Marben.

Another caller reported seeing a similarly described bear going through a yard and heading toward a wooded area in Scott Park. The last call, about 11:30 p.m., reported that the bear was near the city's central maintenance facility before crossing the street and heading toward homes.

An officer was unable to locate the bear, but using footprints, police determined that the callers were probably right about what they saw.

"It was a larger animal," Marben said. "It wasn't a raccoon or a dog or anything of that nature."

Officials believe the bear could be the same one that was seen a week earlier in nearby Eureka and Empire townships, Marben said.

Callers reported a black bear in the townships during the week of May 1, according to the Dakota County Sheriff's Department. An officer reported seeing the bear after a call from Empire Township.

Black bears are native to Minnesota and are common throughout the northern part of the state.

"My guess is that it's just that time of the year when bears start roaming, and obviously, they are looking for food," Marben said.

Still, it's unusual to see a black bear wandering so far south, Marben said.

"We've had our share of coyotes and of cougar sightings, but this is the first for a black bear that I can recall," he said.

Apple Valley police haven't had any further calls about the bear.

Police say that anyone who spots a bear should stay calm, keep a distance and call police.

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495