GRIDLEY, Calif. (AP) _ A large bear with a penchant for trendy California kiwi fruit sent a farmworker up a tree, then took a nap in a walnut nursery while a throng of officials decided to let a sleeping bear lie.

Black bears are common in the Sierra Nevada and foothills, but rarely venture into flat, inhabited areas such as southern Butte County in the middle of the Sacramento Valley.

''In talking to the ranchers out there, it's the first time anyone in that area has seen a bear in 20 or more years,'' said Earl Young, Butte County rabies control director.

Young didn't see the bear, but found evidence the animal was snacking on kiwi fruit before it encountered humans.

''These animals enjoy the kiwi. Judging from the prints, the bear appeared to be about 250 pounds,'' Young said.

John Kusic said one of his farmworkers spotted the bear Wednesday morning trotting through a kiwi vineyard.

Officials from the Butte County Sheriff's Department, the county Health Department, the state Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were called in.

The officials found the bear that afternoon curled up for a nap in a walnut nursery nearby. After checking to see if the animal appeared healthy, they decided to back off and leave him be.

''He hadn't really caused any damage. And the feeling at the scene was that nobody wanted to see the bear hurt. ... Apparently he was just asleep and wanted to be left alone to enjoy his nap,'' state Warden Terry Hodges said.

Police said Friday the bear has not been spotted since Wednesday.