By Jason KUROSU
In April, a black bear reportedly ate four chickens at Bonita Vista Drive in La Cañada. On May 14, another bear was seen at Pine Lawn Drive and Pine Cone Road in La Crescenta. To address these sightings, field questions and provide information, a public forum was held at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station. Residents from La Crescenta and La Cañada attended, anxious to hear what Lieutenant Marty Wall of the California Department of Fish and Game had to say about the likelihood of further sightings and what to do should a bear enter their neighborhood or even their property.
While setting up a forum after such sightings may have seemed like the addressing of a growing emergency, Wall spent more of the time dispelling myths and informing the citizenry of the basics.
Wall laid out the current bear situation with a map of the area, pointing out the stretch of forest above La Crescenta and La Cañada.
“This is not really good bear habitat,” Wall said. “There are some seasonal food sources like acorns and chokecherries, but mostly they rely on us. This area won’t support bears continuously, year-round.”
The bears’ reliance on us for food was highlighted throughout the forum.
“Bears are creatures of habit. If they come down here and find a pizza or a Big Mac, they’ll come back. They’ll keep coming back until they have a reason not to.”
A regimen of prevention and eliminating the attraction was stressed during the forum.
“Prevention is better than any kind of cure,” said Wall. By “cure,” Wall meant any sort of means of eradicating the bear population. Wall stressed that “stopping the reason they come down” was preferable to killing the bears.
“In California, no one has ever been killed by a black bear,” Wall said, which surprised more than a few of the residents.
When looking at the situation from a prevention angle, Wall had numerous suggestions.
“Don’t leave your trash cans out at night. Bears have an incredible sense of smell. Even an empty trash will attract a bear.”
Wall suggested keeping the trash cans out “only on the mornings of garbage day” and also cited what some residents in other cities have done to prevent bears from rooting through trash cans, which was to spray the insides of the cans with ammonia.
Wall also suggested the usage of motion sensor lights in one’s backyard, possibly in conjunction with something emitting a loud noise, to startle and scare off the bear.
“This doesn’t do any harm to the bear and can create a bad association in the bear’s mind with your house, so it won’t be inclined to come back.”
In terms of what to do when encountered by a bear, Wall said, “Running is useless. There’s never been a human born that can outrun any of these bears.”
Wall emphasized the common tip of “making yourself look big” and most importantly, “never get in the way of a bear and what it wants.”
Usually this would just be food. Wall insisted that willful attacks on humans were not attacks and that he generally categorized these as “misunderstandings.”
With the community turning out for the forum, the solution for dealing with bears was appropriately community based.
Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, who was in attendance, urged a “continuing dialogue” between the residents and the authorities on how to properly deal with the bear situation.
Wall echoed the idea of working as a community.
“The attractions will be around, but each of us individually can do our part and make our homes less desirable to the bears,” said Wall. “If we can get the word out and everyone can work together, that is more effective than any tranquilizers or relocations or anything like that.”