Summer vacation got off to a wild start last week for Randall Bradley, who returned from his last-day-of-11th-grade celebration to find a crowd of people — including local law enforcement — on his family’s street.
They mentioned that a black bear had been spotted in the neighborhood of Daleridge Road and Burgoyne Lane, so Bradley went to go check for it in his family’s backyard.
“He came back and said the bear was there,” his mother, Trisha Stites, wrote in an email. “I really did not believe him at first. I thought he was joking with me.”
She went to see for herself and, yes, there was the bear, just “poking around” in the yard.
She called over the sheriff’s personnel, alerted her family and then went out the back door (far from the bear, she stressed) to snap a few photographs.
“As more first responders showed up, [the bear] ran up a tree that angles over the house,” said Stites of the excitement on Thursday, May 31.
Fire trucks arrived with a plan to spray water at the bear, hoping to compel her to come down. But before they could, the bear — a 3-year-old female — came down on her own “quickly!”
“We all scattered,” said Stites, who said she never before had encountered a bear in LCF, where she grew up and where her parents have owned a home for 50 years. “I ran into my house. Honestly, I never looked back at where anyone else went!”
The bear wound up back in a large tree in the front yard, where firefighters sprayed her until she fell.
“The firemen, sheriffs and game wardens were amazing,” Stites said. “I was touched at the care they showed the bear, removing a bench under the tree she was in and padding a nearby trailer hitch so she would not be hurt by them if she fell.
“I will never, ever forget the sight, and thunk sound, of a bear dropping out of my tree,” added Stites, who said the bear was sedated soon after she fell. “A game warden immediately held her and started checking for broken bones as she kind of crawled forward a little bit and then rested.”
Stites reports that California Fish and Wildlife personnel patiently waited until the bear was fully sedated before they moved her, rolling her onto a tarp and carrying her to a nearby truck.
Peter Tira, a Fish and Wildlife spokesman, confirmed that the bear was tranquilized and then taken to Angeles National Forest, where she was released.
“We helped her out with a ride, essentially,” Tira said.
He also noted that this time of year is when people most often see bears in urban settings.
“Bears have been hibernating and this is the time of year when they reawaken and are hungry and go looking for food so we’re seeing quite a lot of bear activity right now across the state,” Tira said. “They’re coming out of their slumber, being hungry, the weather is nice, and so they often end up where they’re not supposed to be, in more populated communities.
“This wasn’t a problem bear, or a nuisance bear, it was just a bear that ended up in the wrong spot.”
Tira discouraged residents from leaving anything around their homes that might attract a bear. That includes food in trash cans, remnants of past barbecued meat on a backyard grill, bird feed as well as scented products, including insect repellant, soaps, candles and sun tan lotion.
“They have a great sense of smell,” he said. “And we don’t want them to develop a fondness for trash or fast food leftovers or dog food. We don’t want them getting used to people and human garbage.”
And he said people don’t want to get comfortable with bears, either.
“Just call 911,” he said. “Don’t try to shoo a bear out of a cabin or backyard. Leave it be and call 911, and local first responders will get there.”