VANCOUVER - A little black bear took centre stage on the streets behind one of the city's most famous theatres Monday afternoon, stopping traffic and stealing the hearts of bystanders.
For about an hour, the yearling black bear sat atop a garbage truck, playing for the crowds of onlookers and stumping conservation officers as to how it made it from the wilds of Metro Vancouver to the middle of the concrete jungle behind the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
And then, the drama was over. Tranquilized and carried away, the bear was removed from the big city lights to a wilder, more pristine stage near the community of Squamish, north of Vancouver.
Alex Desjardins, a member of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, said he believes the bear began its odyssey in a Dumpster in North Vancouver earlier in the day.
"So presumably the bear would have been in the Dumpster, loaded in the back of the garbage truck and when the operator went to do another pickup in downtown Vancouver that's when he would have realized that there was bear in his truck," said Desjardins.
But William Craig, who was selling Christmas trees across the street from the drama, said he thinks the story really began around 3 p.m. when the bear jumped out of the back of the garbage truck and climbed atop the vehicle.
"I couldn't believe what I saw," said Craig, who grew up in the backwoods of B.C. "I had to tell him (the truck driver) 'there's a bear on top of your truck.'"
Craig said the bear appeared as shocked as everybody else and, perhaps, was suffering from a case of stage fright.
"It just sat there and just looked around. It was scared. It was scared. It didn't know what was happening."
(CHECK OUT THE VIDEO OF THE UNLIKELY VISITOR HERE)
It wasn't too long before the supporting cast and crew of police and conservation officers showed up, said Craig, tranquilizing the young bear and easing it from its precarious perch.
"It was really different. I wasn't expecting to see a bear jumping out of a garbage truck. That's the last thing I thought I'd see," said Craig.
Nadine Schaefer, general manager of the Vancouver Christmas Market, said the little black bear drama stole the spotlight from her event, which was taking place nearby.
"We try to be special, but more for other reasons for special food and unique gifts and our nice entertainment that we have on the stage, but yeah, obviously, we had a visitor today we were not counting on," she said.
Even Twitter was a-tweat with the bear's performance. One person, thinking back to the Stanley Cup riot in June when the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins, posted this Tweet:
"The riot continues! (obviously a Bruins fan!)"
Desjardins said this wasn't the first time a bear stole the show in Vancouver. In 2007 or 2008, he said, a bear was found under the wooden roller coaster at Playland, in East Vancouver.
Desjardins said this bear appeared healthy and will be released near Squamish so it doesn't come back to the city for a repeat performance.
"It's a yearling, male, in good condition," said Desjardins. "So most likely what's going to happen is he's going to find a spot, forage a little, build up his fat reserves, and in a couple of weeks he should find a den and start hibernating."