St. Paul police shot and killed a wayward black bear early Sunday morning in the Frogtown neighborhood.

After getting calls from residents, they followed the bear until it climbed a tree in the 500 block of LaFond Avenue and stayed there for an hour until about 1:30 a.m., said spokesman Sgt. Paul Paulos. When the bear came down, police shot him to protect area residents, on the advice of the state Department of Natural Resources.

A DNR official arrived and took the bear carcass away, Paulos said.

"It becomes a public safety issue," Paulos said, noting that tranquilizers are used in less urban areas, but that the drugs don't always work right away.

It's rare to have a bear in a densely populated urban neighborhood, Paulos said, although it happened six months ago in St. Paul's Dayton's Bluff area. He said the Frogtown bear wasn't too big, weighing 125 to 200 pounds, "depending on who you talked to."

"I knew something was going on because there were lots of cars and lots of lights," said Beverly Jones, who noticed police spotlights from her apartment window across the St. Agnes Catholic Church parking lot on Lafond Avenue.

"I could see the cops were doing something. I couldn't see what," she said Sunday afternoon. Told that police had to shoot the bear, she said that she did hear a popping sound, but that that's not too unusual in the neighborhood.

Across Kent Street from Jones, Jennifer Walton also noticed late-night lights. "They shot a bear?" she said in disbelief. "That's too bad."

The Rev. John Ubel could have had a ringside seat for the bear treeing outside his home in the St. Agnes rectory. But he was sleeping and was surprised to hear about the Saturday night commotion.

"I have lived in Frogtown for six years and I thought I had seen it all. I guess I missed something," Ubel said. He expressed a common query: "Where would this bear come from?"

"Wherever he came from he walked for miles," Paulos said. "You have to have a heart for the poor guy or sow. To wander into a city neighborhood, maybe its food supply was low. Something took him that far out of his element."

DNR officials say bear sightings are infrequent in the metro area. It usually happens in the spring, when natural foods are less plentiful than they are in late summer and fall. A year ago, more than 10 bear sightings were reported in one week in May in the east metro and a bear was even seen in Apple Valley last spring. Fridley police killed their first bear in April 2009.

Jim Adams • 952-746-3283