Residents reminded to keep garbage well contained to keep intruders away.
By Mary O’KEEFE
Two recent bear sightings have reminded Crescenta Valley residents of just how close wildlife is in this area surrounded by mountains.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 12 and 13 a bear was sighted on Cedarbend Road in Glenwood Oaks. The bear was seen rummaging through the garbage cans that had been left out by residents for trash pick-up.
The McLeod family saw the bear at about 1 a.m. both mornings. Laura McLeod said her son drove up to their home and noticed the bear.
“My son came home around 1 a.m. He looked into his rearview mirror and saw the bear walk across our driveway, “ McLeod said.
Her son called his parents and told them about the large visitor that was in their neighborhood.
“He asked us if we could look and let him know when the bear was far enough away so he could get out of the car, “she said.
When the bear walked to a neighbor’s home and began going through the trashcan, McLeod’s son went into his home.
The family watched the bear as it rifled through trash and eventually left the area. Warnings went out via Glendale Police Department and Neighborhood Watch.
“We watch when we go out at night now,” McLeod said.
Although mountains and wildlife surround Crescenta Valley it is still unusual to see bears in the Verdugo Mountain area.
“I have never seen a bear [and] we have lived here 15 years,” she added.
But bears do show up from time to time. A bear with burnt paws, presumably a victim of the Station Fire, showed up in a family’s Altura Avenue backyard in November, 2009.
In fact bears were quite prevalent in the Crescenta Valley in the early 1900s. Marlene Hitt authored a book on Sunland-Tujunga and wrote about the folklore of the last bear in the area that was shot by a man known only as Cornelius in the Tujunga area.
Cornelius, according to legend, was a farmer in the area. He had seen the bear when he was cleaning out the debris basin on his property.
“He was worried about his children walking to school. He panicked and went out to get the bear,” Hitt said.
He found the bear and shot him.
“He was [reportedly] the last silver tipped grizzly in [Southern California],” Hitt said. “Cornelius took the bear to Sunland Park and barbecued it and gave the meat away.”
Hitt added the story is controversial as this was reportedly the last bear shot in the area and it being a silver tip grizzly.
“[One historian concluded] that since there were no silver tip grizzlies in the area he thought the bear may have escaped from the zoo,” she said.
There are several accounts however of residents in the area complaining of bears eating fruit off their trees. The last few encounters of bears in the Verdugos were reported in 1910-1913.
Doris McKently’s family has lived in Glendale since the mid 1920s. She has heard stories of bears in the area. Years ago an insurance company put out a historical pamphlet that contained information on bears in the Crescenta Valley, she said.
“Those who were traveling in the Verdugo Park area in the early 1900s, and wanted to go to a fiesta in La Cañada [had to deal with] bears. [Travelers] would be met by a man on horseback [near where Glendale Community College is now] who would wave his serape and rattle his spurs to scare the bears away,” McKently recalled.
Several years ago McKently met a man who was a member of the Verdugo family.
Frank Urquidez’s family owned vineyards in the Verdugo foothills in the early 1900s. He told McKently of the time when his uncle and father caught a bear in the Verdugo Mountains.
“They caught the bear and took it to Los Angeles where they had bear and bull fights,” McKently said.
She added this type of attraction was not unusual in the early days of L.A.
A bear like the one seen in the Glenwood Oaks area is most likely a black bear and not uncommon in the area, said Patrick Foy of the California Department of Fish and Game.
Although he wasn’t certain of the population in the Verdugos specifically he knew that bears populate the nearby area.
“The Angeles National Forest [area] has a healthy black bear population. It wouldn’t be uncommon for bears or lions to be seen,” Foy said.
Fish and Game has some advice about what to do to avoid having bears in your neighborhood and what to do if someone encounters a bear.
“Basically we advise when hiking to keep food secure. Use bear-proof containers. These are actually required at national parks and may not be required at national forests but is highly recommended,” he said.
The typical image of a bear is a tall grizzly on the attack, however in California it is a black bear that hikers, or neighbors, will most likely be facing.
“Keep in mind that there is only one species in California and that is the black bear [however] they vary in color from black to dark or light brown,” Foy said. “With a California black bear if you make a bunch of noise that usually scares them away.”
He added that the most important thing to remember when living around the wilderness like the Crescenta Valley is to do everything possible to deter bears from roaming the neighborhoods in the first place.
“Our biggest problem [with bears] is garbage,” Foy said. He advises to keep garbage cans in a secure area with lids closed. On garbage day, take the cans out in the morning instead of the night before pick-up, he added.
“[Other problems are] pet food left outside, fallen fruit and barbecue grills,” Foy said.
Barbecue grills that are not cleaned or covered and have grease or pieces of food on the grill are an attraction for bears and other wildlife.
For information on bears visit the Fish and Game website at www.keepmewild.org. To report a bear sighting in Glendale contact the police department at (818) 548-4840 or the Pasadena Humane Society at (626) 792-7151. For bear sightings in La Crescenta contact the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station, (818) 248-3464.