Rhonda Chestnutt, who works for a leadership program at the University of Colorado, was pumping coins into a parking meter shortly before 8 a.m. Thursday when she felt shaggy fur brush up against her legs.

Her first assumption was that a large dog -- perhaps a Saint Bernard -- had just barreled past her outside of CU's Williams Village dorm complex, near Baseline Road and 30th Street.

But when the animal looked back over its shoulder, she got a better look. Chestnutt realized she just had a brush with a black bear.

"It was like, 'Excuse me, pardon me, coming through.' It was running full speed," she said. "I felt privileged to have the encounter."

The bear -- a 200-pound male that wildlife officials estimate is 3 to 5 years old -- was tranquilized Thursday morning after a 21/2 hour romp around the dorms. Ironically, the bear was roaming near the Bear Creek student apartments.

The bear scuttled 15 feet up a tree that was nearby 30th Street, and, a little after 10 a.m. officials shot two darts at the bear to tranquilize it. The decision was made because of the bear's proximity to the dorms and U.S. 36, said Ryan Huff, a spokesman for the CU Police Department.

After a short wait, the bear fell out of the tree and onto pads that had been placed on the ground on the boulevard near 30th Street. The bear landed on its back.

"It was really a perfect landing," Huff said.

The bear has been tagged and was to be relocated to the foothills west of Boulder, said Jennifer Churchill, a spokeswoman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

"We took him in a truck and are driving him out to bear habitat and hope he'll stay out that way," she said.

Churchill said bears start coming out of hibernation in March and April and are beginning to scavenge for food.

By mid-morning, dozens of students had surrounded the area to take photos and watch the bear in the tree.

"Now that it's knocked out, we should be able to pet it," said Josh Bensussen, a CU freshman from Washington.

After the bear was caged, students were allowed to get close to it, some stroking its paws.

"I'm going to be late for class," said Kristina Limonius, a CU freshman from New York who had never seen a live bear.

CU police controlled traffic throughout the morning, closing off 30th Street, as officials from Colorado Parks and Wildlife assisted, Huff said.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com.