Black Bears Provide Large Dose of Reality

Wendy Miller is editor of Ventura County Life

Many of the residents of this county came here from elsewhere, including from some very large cities. And they brought a lot of big city notions with them--which probably explains the five-way intersections, the skyscraper and all those cappuccino bars.

Some days, they can get to feeling quite hip and sophisticated and forget that they live in a largely rural and agricultural place. That’s when the county has to give them a wake-up call.

Sometimes it comes in the form of an ocean breeze sending a whiff of manure in through the kitchen window, to savor with the morning coffee. Or a trip to the back yard might reveal that deer have made a midnight snack of the new flower garden. Then again, skunks might settle under the house, while coyotes lay in wait for the cat.

And then there is that rustling sound late at night, the one that can be heard after the kids have been tucked in and folks are settling down with a biscuit and a nice cup of Lapsong Oochong tea.


What is it? Just the sound of a black bear in the yard, eating the avocados.

So says Pancho Doll, who wrote this week’s Centerpiece story on the large, pesky critters. According to Doll and his sources, the bear population problem is due to a decline in poaching. But the bear weight problem seems to be the result of a surfeit of picnicking. And the dish of choice seems to be avocados.

“Most people in Ventura County are probably unaware that there is a bear living within a mile of their home,” said Doll. And if that home has an avocado tree, watch out.

Doll knows a little something about bears, though he has yet to come across one in his own neighborhood.


“I live near the beach and have no fruit trees,” he said, “but I have seen a number of bears in my time. The first encounter was in Alaska where everybody carries a gun, usually a revolver, to protect themselves from the bears. The standard wisdom if you meet a bear in the woods is this: only shoot him five times, save the last bullet for yourself.”

Doll does not encourage the use of firearms, nor does he advocate suicide in this story. But he does provide some tips on dealing with a behemoth if you are unlucky enough to meet one up close and personal.

“For this story, I principally talked to biologists and bear hunters,” said Doll. “That is where I found Marsha Vaughan, probably the foremost woman bear hunter in North America, a designation that I’m sure gets her a cocktail in most any bar.”

So what does Doll, an inveterate camper himself, do to discourage the large, ferocious creature from dropping by his campsite? “When I go camping in the woods I am very bear careful,” he said. “I don’t keep food in my tent, no chewing gum or even toothpaste.


“Those tents are made of rip-stop nylon, but a 400-pound bear voids the warranty pretty quick.”