If you follow local news at all, you've probably seen a few stories about bear sightings in your time. They tend to startle locals and prompt TV news crews to give chase.
Just this week, a bear wandered into a La Cañada Flintridge neighborhood and took a dip in someone's swimming pool.
In April, the Los Angeles Times reported a young bear was loose in a neighborhood of Duarte. No one was hurt, and the bear was eventually tranquilized and relocated.
Just a day before that, another bear was spotted near the campus of Los Angeles Mission College. Students and teachers were warned to shelter in place, but as NBC4 reported, this bear was also cornered and tranquilized (after climbing fences and running from police cruisers for more than an hour).
As alarming as it can be to watch TV news footage of police bearing down on an ursine suspect actively evading arrest, this is all very normal, wildlife experts say.
Every year around this time, young bears living in Angeles National Forest come out of their denning season looking for food, said Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The two bears spotted this week were yearlings — generally around a year and a half to 2 years old. Bears of this age often appear in the neighborhoods north of the 210 Freeway around this time of year, Hughan said.
Why? The yearlings have spent most or all of their lives with their mothers and are only now starting to strike out on their own. The biological term for this process, when mom pushes her young out of the den, is "dispersing."
"They're teenagers," Hughan said. "They're that equivalent where they're making their way out in the world, and they don't know to avoid people. They don't know to avoid trash cans, because they haven't learned the lesson of a tranquilizer dart."
Hughan said these two wildlife run-ins turned out well for everyone. No one was hurt, and no damages were reported. And the animals were returned to the wild with not much more than the bear-equivalent of a hangover.
Hughan said people could see more mischievous bear behavior over the next five or six weeks, but it should subside after that.
He also offered some tips to residents and campers to stay safe — though, if anything, this human-wildlife contact often poses a greater danger to the bears.
"Unfortunatley, once a bear starts eating people food, then they become what we call 'habituated,'" Hughan says. "And a fed bear's a dead bear, unfortunately, because the bears won't and can't unlearn that behavior."
Hughan says wildlife officials need human help to prevent habituating bears.
By protecting yourself, you're also protecting the bear. With that in mind, here are some tips from Fish and Wildlife:
- Pick up your trash: If you live in bear habitat, Hughan says, put your trash away. You may even want to leave it in the garage until the morning of collection. If you're camping, use a bear-proof container or trash can.
- Clean your BBQ: If you're grilling for dinner, scrape the barbecue off and cover it when you're done. That will help keep bears out of your yard, Hughan says.
- If you encounter a bear: Don't run. Make yourself appear larger, yell, throw something at it. "Luckily California black bears are the only species of bear in California, and they're pretty much afraid of their own shadow," Hughan says.
- If attacked, fight back.
For more tips and tricks for avoiding unwanted interactions with California black bears, visit the Fish and Wildlife website keepmewild.com.
This story has been updated. It originally ran in April.