By Douglas W. Motley
Bear invasions at mountain area homes seem to have increased in recent weeks, with California black bears (they’re actually brown in coloration) rummaging through outdoor trash barrels as they wander through neighborhoods after dark.
Two such incidents occurred during the week of June 6 at this reporter’s Crestline residence and at another nearby home. Another one reportedly occurred in the Cedarpines Park area, though it’s not known whether it was the same bear. It was very large in size. (This reporter should have known better than to leave edible items in the trash. He only did so because they tend to stink in the kitchen trash receptacle. Now he leaves them securely locked inside his garage.)
According to eyewitness reports, a lot of home camera and security devices are capturing photos of bears, coyotes and other forest animals in residential areas recently. Wildlife experts say wild animals such as bears, coyotes and mountain lions are being driven by drought conditions to seek food in areas where people live. They advise residents to discourage animals from entering yards by securing food-related trash and keeping cats and small dogs indoors at night.
An Aug. 30, 2018, article in this newspaper recalls a series of incidents when, for the third time in as many months, a Crestline residence in a normally quiet hillside neighborhood northeast of Lake Gregory had been broken into by an apparently hungry California black bear in search of a midnight snack.
“This is the third time a bear has broken into my home,” bemoaned Carol Vooght. She was sipping tea in an effort to remain awake following the 1 a.m. intrusion, explained to The Alpine Mountaineer that she had left a kitchen window open, as she often does, so fresh air could circulate throughout the two-story residence.
Pointing out a crumpled kitchen window screen, knocked-over table items and debris scattered across the kitchen floor, Vooght explained that she had incurred several thousand dollars in damages to 18 destroyed window screens and damaged household furnishings, including a shredded couch following the three bear-related home invasions. She added that there had been two failed attempts by bears to enter her home.
If this happens to you, be sure to turn on the outdoor lights and very carefully peek outside your backyard door or, better yet, peek out the window, if one is available nearby. This reporter yelled very loudly and the bear quickly left the area, clutching a bag of barbecued baby back rib scraps between its jaws.
Before the arrival of humans, grizzly bears were the unopposed kings of the mountains. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the grizzly bear population was the likely reason that black bears did not naturally inhabit the area. The California grizzly’s habitat began shrinking in the late 1800s when the state’s human population began to expand and sawmills entered the mountaintop area. The grizzly’s potentially ferocious nature ultimately led to their rapid extermination.
An August 2018 online news report from KABC Channel 7 mentions an incident where a bear mauled a hunter after it was shot with an arrow near Banning. “It was legal hunting season in this area of California,” said Patrick Foy, with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. According to the CDFW, at that time archery bear hunting season ran from late August until early September. Hunters who obtained a license and bear tag were only allowed to use a bow and arrow. Firearms were prohibited.