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Dead bear ties up traffic

Posted: April 30, 2009 10:31 p.m.
Updated: May 1, 2009 4:55 a.m.

A cub knocks over a garbage container and a potted plant in a Monrovia home. There have been three recent sightings of bears in the Santa Clarita Valley including Thursday's death of a bear on Interstate 5.

A bear lying dead on the southbound side of Interstate 5 tied up traffic Thursday morning and marked the third bear sighting in less than a week.

A Stevenson Ranch motorist spotted the dead bear just before 7 a.m. Thursday. Susan Lamprey dropped her son off at West Ranch High School and got on Interstate 5 at the Valencia Boulevard on-ramp headed south. She saw something lying in the far right-hand lane near the McBean Parkway on-ramp, but wasn't sure what it was.

"I could tell (the bear) had been hit, but I couldn't tell what it was," Lamprey said. "It was just a larger object than a dog."
The tipoff for Lamprey was the bear's fur. "It was thick and bristly," she said.

California Highway Patrol officers arrived on the scene at about 8:35 a.m., Sgt. Rob Lund said. The bear appeared to have been struck and killed by a vehicle, according a CHP press release. How the bear got onto the freeway, is unknown, Lund said.

The dead bear marked the third bear sighting in the Santa Clarita Valley in less than a week, said Lt. Brenda Cambra of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.

The first sighting came Friday night. A bear roaming the paseo near Rancho Adobe and Alta Madera roads in Valencia grabbed the attention of at least four people, who called the Sheriff's Station to report the sighting, she said.

The bear was later sighted in the wash behind Tournament Road in Valencia, Cambra said.

A second sighting was reported at 5:30 a.m. near Old Orchard Park in Valencia. Deputies were unable to verify the second sighting, Cambra said.

It is unclear whether the bear sightings are connected, she said.

The recent string of sightings can be attributed to the wildfires that ravaged the forest the last two summers, to suburban sprawl and to the time of day the sightings occurred, said Kim Bosell, Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation regional parks superintendent.

Bosell spent three years tracking bears in the San Gabriel Valley, where homes close to the foot of the mountains made easy targets for hungry bears looking for a quick snack, she said.

"Bears are opportunistic eaters," Bosell said. Those opportunities within the forest may be tougher to come by after a fire, she said.
"If the fire was in an area bears used before, they'll move somewhere else to find food," she said.

When food becomes scarce, bears often move to homes on the fringe of the forest, Bosell said. "Any time any construction goes up, it's a new food source for bears," she said. A homeowner's garbage is a bear's buffet; and there is no such thing as a bear-proof garbage can, just a garbage can a bear hasn't yet figured out how to break into, she said.

Bears will scale chain-link fences to get to fruit trees, pet food or pet water dishes, Bosell said. Swimming pools and spas aren't safe from the furry guests either, she said.

It's not easy to keep a bear from coming back.

"Bears work on a reward basis. They will continue to return to the scene until the food source is gone," Bosell said.

Time of day also plays a factor in the recent bear sightings in the SCV, Bosell said. All three sightings were either early in the morning or late in the evening. Both are peak times for bears to forage for food. "If you're wearing a fur coat, you don't want to be out in the sun," she said.

The key to keeping bears out of your yard is to make your home unattractive to the furry invaders, she said.

"Don't take your garbage out until trash pickup day. Pick fruit when it's ripe and don't allow fruit to lie on the ground. And don't leave out pet food," she said.

Keeping bears out of a backyard pool means erecting a wrought-iron fence. "Chain link fences are too easy for bears to climb," she said.


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