At about 1 a.m., officers saw the bear in the 3500 block of Castlefield Lane, which is near Millstone 14 Movie Theater, before it climbed over a privacy fence and went into a wooded area, police said.
"The bear, while not a cub, was not a full-grown adult. (It) maybe stood about 5 feet or 6 feet high," police Capt. Joel Acciardo said.
The Castlefield neighborhood is only 3 years old, and state wildlife officers said the bear likely used to migrate through the area while heading between Rockfish Creek and other wooded areas.
"I was working in my office around 1 o'clock with all the lights on. I'm just glad the bear didn't see me," resident David Sattelmeyer said.
"I wonder what the bear was thinking when he walked through here – probably like, 'Oh, look! What's that thing?'" resident Michelle Tunstall said, pointing to a mini black bear bearing a welcome sign in her front yard.
"I think it's a little cool. I think our neighborhood will go down as the neighborhood a bear walked through," Tunstall said.
Cumberland County deputies and animal control officers later saw the bear near Sim Cotton Street and Cumberland Mills Elementary School, police said.
Bears have reared their heads around Hope Mills before, Acciardo said.
"It's not unheard of. Bears do tend to migrate along the creeks and rivers around here, en route to their summer feeding grounds," he said. “In previous instances, they’ve never stayed longer than three or four days max.”
So, police put the neighborhood on "bear watch," and officers went door to door to pass out lists of do's and don'ts to residents. Residents were urged to call 911 if they spotted the bear again and not to try to follow it or interfere with its movement.
Other tips included look around before stepping outside at night and early in the morning and don't make sudden movements or turn your back if you encounter the bear.
"We'll be pulling guard duty tonight, keeping an eye on the neighborhood," Sattelmeyer said.
State wildlife officers said they don't plan to take any action unless the bear becomes aggressive or is otherwise endangered.