Tag Archives: black bear

California Black Bears are on the Move

California’s black bears are active and hungry after a period of hunkering down through the winter. As a reminder, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) encourages people to help reduce unwanted encounters with this large mammal by being “bear aware.” People who visit or live in bear country can take actions that promote responsible behavior and safe co-existence with bears.

Black bears are the only bear species in California. They generally prefer mountainous areas and natural habitat. However, as more people visit parks and wilderness areas and choose to live in or near bear habitat, some bears may become used to the presence of people and as a result display less shy and avoidant behavior.

“Over the years, reported human-bear conflicts have increased significantly,” said Vicky Monroe, CDFW’s Wildlife Conflict Programs Coordinator. “Each spring and summer we receive numerous calls from the public reporting anything from black bears eating food off campground picnic tables to bears taking dips in residential swimming pools.”

Black bears have a diverse diet and can eat nearly anything, from berries and insects to pet food, human trash and road kill. They also have a highly specialized sense of smell, which can sometimes lead them to enter homes, cabins and tents while following their nose (and stomach) to a food source. Local communities and areas of human activity in or around bear habitat can provide a tempting food supply for a hungry bear. However, unwanted and/or destructive bear activity may be significantly reduced or even eliminated, when people are mindful and remember to remove attractants and access to food.

Tips for Bear-proofing your Home, Rental or Timeshare

Bears may venture into areas of human activity close to bear habitat, in search of food. The best defense against bear break-ins and bears in your yard is to eliminate attractants to your property by following these tips:

  • Purchase and properly use a bear-proof garbage container.
  • Wait to put trash out until the morning of collection day.
  • Do not leave trash, groceries or pet food in your car.
  • Keep garbage cans clean and deodorize them with bleach or ammonia.
  • Keep barbecue grills clean and stored in a garage or shed when not in use.
  • It is advised to not hang bird feeders in bear country. If you must, only do so during November through March and make them inaccessible to bears. Keep in mind bears are excellent climbers.
  • Do not leave any scented products outside, even non-food items such as suntan lotion, insect repellent, soap or candles.
  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked when unoccupied.
  • Consider installing motion-detector alarms and/or electric fencing.
  • Harvest fruit off trees as soon as it is ripe, and promptly collect fruit that falls.
  • Bring pets in at night. Provide safe and secure quarters for livestock at night.
  • Consider composting bins as opposed to open composting.
  • Securely block access to potential hibernation sites such as crawl spaces under decks and buildings.
  • Do not spray bear spray around property – when it dries, it can serve as an attractant.
  • Do not feed deer or other wildlife – this will attract bears to your property.

Tips for Bear Proofing your Campsite

Maintaining a clean campsite is the responsible and safe thing to do when visiting bear country. Here are a few tips for bear proofing your campsite:

  • Haul garbage out of camp regularly – check with camp host or other camp personnel about safe garbage storage. Use bear lockers if available.
  • Store food (including pet food) and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle if bear lockers are not available. In some areas, food storage in the trunk is not advisable. Check with camp or park personnel.
  • Clean dishes and store food and garbage immediately after meals.
  • Clean your grill after each use.
  • Never keep food or toiletries in your tent.
  • Change out of clothes you cooked in before going to bed.
  • Do not clean fish in camp.
  • Do not leave pets unattended in camp or sleeping outside.
  • If in the backcountry, store food in a bear-resistant food canister.
  • Use bear resistant ice chests (some jurisdictions will only allow ice chests that are approved as bear resistant)

Tips for Hiking in Bear Country

  • Bears may react defensively if your presence is not known – make noise while hiking. Talk loudly or whistle.
  • If possible, travel with a group of people.
  • Avoid thick brush and walk with the wind at your back so your scent is ahead of you.
  • Watch for bear sign along trails – scat, tracks and stripped bark off trees.
  • Avoid sites where dead animal carcasses are observed.
  • If you see a bear, avoid it and give it the opportunity to avoid you.
  • Leash dogs while hiking in bear country – dogs can surprise and aggravate bears – bringing the bear back to you when the dog flees from the bear.

Black Bear Safety Reminders

  • Black bear behavior is not always predictable. Human-bear attacks are rare in California; however, they do occur. There is no single safety strategy applicable to every bear encounter.
  • Individual bears can display varying levels of tolerance and temperament.
  • Prevention is better than confrontation.
  • Keep as much distance as possible between you and the bear.
  • Share this information with your children. Make sure they know to tell you if they see a bear in the area. Be Bear Aware.

Black Bear Encounters

These are general guidelines based on research by wildlife managers and scientists, intended to help keep you safe in the event of a black bear encounter. Keep in mind that safety tips for grizzly bears are not the same as for black bear. California does not have grizzly bears.

  • If a bear breaks into your home, do not confront the bear. Most bears will quickly look for an escape route. Move away to a safe place. Do not block exit points. If the bear does not leave, call 911.
  • If you encounter a bear in your yard, chances are it will move on if there is nothing for the bear to forage. If there is enough distance between you and the bear, you can encourage the bear to leave by using noisemakers or blowing a whistle.
  • If you encounter a bear while hiking and it does not see you. Back away and increase your distance. Clap hands or make noise so the bear knows you are there and will move on.
  • If you encounter a bear on the trail and it sees you. Do not make eye contact. Back away, do not run. Let the bear know you are not a threat. Give it a chance to leave.
  • If a bear approaches you, make yourself look bigger by lifting and waving arms. Use noisemakers, or yell at the bear. If small children are present, keep them close to you.Carry and know how to use bear spray as a deterrent. In the event of a black bear attack, it is usually recommended to fight back. However, each situation is different. Prevention is the key.

Black Bear Facts

  • Black bears are the only bear species found in California. They range in color from blonde to black, with cinnamon brown being the most common.
  • There are an estimated 35,000 bears in California.
  • Males are much larger than females and can weigh up to 500 pounds, although average weight is about 300 pounds.
  • Black bears can sprint up to 35 mph and they are strong swimmers and great tree climbers.
  • Bears are omnivorous eating foods ranging from berries, plants, nuts, roots, and honey, honeycomb, insects, larvae, carrion and small mammals.
  • Bears typically mate in June and July.
  • Bear cubs are born in winter dens in January and February and are hairless, deaf and blind.
  • Black bear attacks are rare in California and typically are defensive in nature because the bear is surprised or defending cubs; however, bears accustomed to people may become too bold and act aggressively.
  • Female black bears will often send cubs up a tree and leave the area in response to a perceived threat. Do not remain in the area – when you leave, she will come back for her cubs.

For more information about black bear biology please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Mammals/Black-Bear/Biology.

For information about bear proof containers and where to buy them, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild/Products.

###

Media Contacts:
Victoria Monroe, CDFW Wildlife Conflict Program, (916) 856-8335
Lesa Johnston, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 322-8933

 

Black Bear Attacks Man in Mariposa County

Media Contacts:
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (530) 523-6720

Black Bear Attacks Man in Mariposa County

Wildlife officials are investigating a bear attack that resulted in serious injuries early this morning in Mariposa County.

warden on site 1
A CDFW warden investigates on site where a black bear attacked a man this morning in Mariposa County.

The attack occurred in the town of Midpines, when the man stepped out of his house in the dark.  A large black bear struck the man from behind, knocking the victim to the ground.  The man fought the bear, and in the struggle sustained multiple puncture wounds and lacerations to his head, legs, arms, abdomen, hands and feet. Although injured, the man was able to get away from the animal and drive himself to the hospital, where he was treated and released later in the day.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers and USDA Wildlife Service personnel are jointly conducting an investigation. The bear was not in the vicinity when investigators arrived, but tracking dogs will be used to follow its scent. Due to the severity of the attack, and the need to collect forensic evidence from the bear, it will be humanely destroyed when found.

The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office and CDFW are advising residents in the 5000 block of Colorado Road in Midpines to be aware of their surroundings and keep an eye on children and pets.  Should you encounter a bear in that area, do not approach it and call 911.

CDFW reminds residents to be bear aware, never leave trash outdoors and do not feed pets outdoors.  In addition, all rural residents and recreationist should be mindful of nearby wildlife and potential risks of this type.  Attacks on humans by wildlife remain uncommon but do occur on occasion. Basic safety and preventative actions greatly reduce the risk of attack.

CDFW Successfully Returns Yearling Bear to the Wild in Southern Kern County

Media Contacts:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Victoria Monroe, CDFW Environmental Scientist, (661) 391-6087

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has successfully returned a yearling black bear back to the Los Padres National Forest near Lebec.

The male cub was found in distress near the town of Lebec in August 2013. A wildlife officer safely captured the cub and it was transported by CDFW staff to the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care facility for rehabilitation.

Lebec bear release
Lebec bear release

“People frequently encounter young wild animals such as bears and assume they need assistance or have been orphaned,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Marc Kenyon. “In most cases, they should be left alone. Any intervention with young wildlife should be left to CDFW staff or permitted wildlife rehabilitators. This is the best way to ensure that wildlife stays in the wild.”

To be eligible for rehabilitation, a cub must still be dependent upon its mother and not habituated to humans. CDFW works with rehabilitation centers like the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Center. The non-profit center relies completely on donations for their services. At the facility, cubs learn how forage for natural bear food such as berries, acorns, fish, grubs and insects. Human contact is kept to a minimum or is non-existent. By the time the yearling bears leave, each has quadrupled its size or more, to 50-80 pounds, depending upon body type.

“More than ever, it’s important for residents living in bear country to be diligent about keeping potential food sources away from them and living responsibly in bear country,”
said CDFW Environmental Scientist Victoria Monroe. “With responsible residents, this yearling cub will have a greater chance of survival as a healthy, wild black bear.”

Upon release, each cub is given a final health checkup that includes taking hair and blood samples.

In most circumstances, CDFW recommends that people leave wildlife alone, including removing attractants from their properties. If this is not an option, contact CDFW for guidance. For more information and how to live responsibly in bear habitat, please visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/bear.html.