Bear sightings this time of year have become the norm for the San Gabriel Valley. Even so, Monday evening’s sighting of a large bear in northeast Pasadena near the Eaton Canyon Golf Course seemed to have startled and unnerved some residents.
The bear was first spotted at Riviera Drive and Sierra Madre Boulevard at 7 p.m. and was seen again on Rim Road off Sierra Madre Boulevard, Pasadena Police Lt. John Luna said.
“He went over a twelve foot wall like it was no big deal,” said Elizabeth Holland, a Hasting Ranch resident who said she was frightened to see the black bear roaming her back yard.
Bears have lived in California for thousands of years and the black bear population has actually been increasing, according to the state. The California Department of Fish & Game estimates there are from 16,000 to 24,000 bears throughout the state.
It is a good idea for residents to be “in the know” just in case they happen to encounter one of these these indigenous local omnivores.
“Majority of the bears we see around here are second generation bears that are taught to go through trash as a food source,” explained Kim Bosell, Natural Areas Adminstrator at The L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation.
These bears have learned to exist close to homes that have routine trash pickups and easy access to canyons and the open areas where bears live.
“Bears know when it’s trash day. It’s their natural habitat so you can’t blame them for showing their faces,” said Lisa Derderian, Pasadena Fire Department Public Information Officer.
The bears that roam the nearby foothills are black bears by species, despite the fact their fur coats range in color from blond to black. Most black bears in the San Gabriel Valley are actually brown in color (as was Monday’s).
The average size of a male black bear ranges from 350 to 400 pounds, while females average slightly smaller, from 200 to 250 pounds.
While trash is the obvious draw that attracts these bears to residences, other features such as bird feeders and koi ponds tend to be easy food sources that attract the hungry bears.
“Bears are quite lazy when it comes to gathering food, which is why they go to things like trash cans and bird feeders: because it’s easy. They aren’t known to hunt down animals or people,” said Bosell.
This is a relief for worried residents who fear being mauled or having a pet whisked away in the paws of a black bear — whose curved claws are normally one to two inches in length. Historically speaking, there has only been one recorded death by a bear in California and that dates back to the nineteenth century. The typically bear’s diet consists of vegetation, insects and fruit, with only five percent accounted for by consuming meat.
Simply put, bears are used to the human population and just want to munch on scraps that are readily available. For residents who have had close encounters with these bears, it’s still a fright even after you know that bears flee in 95 percent of all cases in which they come too close to people.
“It’s not cute and it’s not funny to see it in person at your home. The bear seemed like it knew the place,” said Holland.
Experts do warn that if you cannot keep your distance and a black bear directly approaches you, you should try to demonstrate to the bear that you may be a danger to it. Make yourself appear larger, stand up, raise your arms and open your jacket. Yell and create a commotion.
In efforts to keep these animals away from your home, the Pasadena Humane Society has outlined some basic tips to discourage bears from visiting your property.
• Do not put out trash cans the night before pick up
• Store garbage cans in a garage or shed
• Keep garbage cans clean. Disinfect with ammonia or bleach.
• Promptly collect fruit that falls from trees. Harvest fruit as soon as it’s ripe.
• Remove plants that attract bears, such as any berries including Dogwood.
• Eliminate bird feeders during spring and summer when there are natural foods available for birds.
• Eliminate compost piles.
• Keep barbecue grills clean and free of drippings.
• Consider purchasing bear spray and keep it at your front/back door.
According Bosell, wildlife officials and law enforcement often engage in practices called hazing which are efforts employed to guide black bears back into the wild when sighted in residential areas. Bears can only be tranquilized and relocated during hunting season under California law.
Residents are urged to alert law enforcement or the Humane Society if they see a bear in their neighborhood, and to also refrain from trying to get to close to the animal.
“Leave it to the professionals,” said Derderian.
For more information and tips about bear safety and prevention, visit www.pasadenahumane.org.
Editor’s Note: Bears of some sort have lived in California for thousands of years. For example, the short-faced bear (Arctodus spp.) is an extinct bear that inhabited North America during the Pleistocene epoch until 11,000 years ago and their remains have been found in the La Brea tar pits.