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Living with Urban Bears: The Good Neighbor Policy

Eaton Canyon held excellent and timely "Urban Black Bear" presentation last Saturday night.

When bears wander through our neighborhoods, they don't want a meal of humans, they just want a human meal.  Bears think we have pretty good taste in food, and we’re nice enough to leave a whole lot of it laying around.

To the urban black bear, our trashcans are fast food restaurants, with an odor that screams “Open All Night.”

On Saturday night, Eaton Canyon Nature Center held a seminar on how people and bears can share the same foothills without having to necessarily share the same neighborhood.

Kinneloa resident Serena Spencer decided to attend the seminar after spotting three bears in her own backyard, just 20-feet from her window. When she saw the bears, her first thought was “"Wow, good thing I have my phone handy to take a pic…” And then after a couple of clicks,  “Wait -- Those are BEARS. There are three BEARS and they're looking at ME. 

"I’m now quite keen to know anything and everything about them."

About 50 people turned up for the The Urban Black Bear presentation, led by Kim Bosell, Natural Areas Administrator with the County of LA Department of Parks and Recreation.  She covered a lot of ground, but much of it dealt with:

Rule #1: “A fed bear is a dead bear.”

Feeding a bear doesn’t mean you’re leaving out food and napkins for them. No, it’s really all about our casual approach to trash and food storage. A trash can overflowing with this week’s leftovers has “open invitation” written all over it. So much so, that urban mother bears now teach their cubs that breakfast, lunch, and dinner is just a dumpster dive away. So we need to teach the mother bear that that is no longer the case. How? It's pretty simple.

When disposing of trash:

  • Double bag the contents
  • Douse the contents with ammonia or bleach
  • Make sure the trash container is tightly, firmly closed. If bears cruise your neighborhood, get a bear-proof trashcan.

And in your garden:

  • Keep outdoor grills clean
  • Don't leave food in or near a window and don't leave pet food or water dishes outside. 
  • Close ground-accessible windows at night. Bears can climb in if they smell food.
  • Keep your yard clean; dispose of fruit once it falls to the ground.

if bears pay your yard a visit, drive them away by making loud noises (bang pots and pans, for example). Also, motion detected lighting can scare them off. 

And, though it doesn’t seem that this should ever even cross anyone’s mind, it must, because the rule is on the list: Do not attempt to feed by hand, pick up or pet baby bears. For one thing, the mother could be nearby and she won’t like it one little bit. 

It may surprise you to know that only one reported human death by a California Black Bear has occurred since 1875. That’s quite a record. As to how many black bear deaths have been caused by humans?  If we count backwards, we can start with the .

(Information in the article is a compendium of notes from the seminar, and should not be used as a resource. For official information, you can start here. Kim Bosell can be reached at kbosell@parks.lacounty.gov).

Barbara Ellis August 28, 2012 at 03:07 PM
I never knew that only one human has ever been killed by a California black bear since 1875. It's good to know.
Karin Bugge August 28, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Pretty amazing, isn't it?
PJ September 11, 2012 at 08:17 PM
We have lots of black bears here in NW Florida and sometimes they swim the bays which makes it even more difficult to track them. A friend who lives on Blackwater Bay recently told me she had to relocate her new bee hive to another property because the bears kept raiding it. Commercial bee keepers use electric fencing but that's not really an option for home owners dealing with Yogi and Boo Boo out looking for a pic-a-nic.

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