Black bear is killed on freeway near Castaic, the second in a week

A black bear stands in a middle of a curving road, looking back at the camera.
A black bear wanders along Canyon Road in Arcadia.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
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A bear was killed Thursday evening while crossing the 5 Freeway near Castaic, the second such fatality in the area in a week, according to authorities.

The black bear was struck by multiple vehicles around 10:30 p.m. on the 5 Freeway at Templin Highway north of Santa Clarita in Los Angeles County, said California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Tim Daly.

The agency does not know the bear’s gender or place of origin, Daly said, but biologists have collected hair samples to catalog the animal in a statewide database.


On Monday, a black bear cub was killed on the 14 Freeway near Soledad Canyon Road northeast of Santa Clarita, according to the California Highway Patrol. The cub was struck by at least two vehicles; one of the drivers stopped to report the collision, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A black bear was struck and killed June 1 on the 5 Freeway near Gormon, about 30 miles north of Castaic, Daly said.

“It seems like there have been more of this happening around that area,” Daly said. “One possible reason is that the bear population in the Los Angeles County region is higher. There are more of them out there.”

The three bears were killed on highways adjacent to the Angeles National Forest.

State officials say the total number of bears struck by vehicles may be underestimated, because not all collisions are recorded. Law enforcement is not obligated to contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife when a wild animal is struck by a vehicle, Daly said. The agency is hoping to increase its contact with law enforcement to better document these incidents.

Wildlife experts say there is no single reason why so many black bears are trying to cross highways around the same area. Earlier this month, a black bear strolled along the beach in Malibu after coming down from the Santa Monica Mountains. That bear was unharmed after it frolicked near the ocean.

Toogee Sielsch, an expert in urbanized black bears, said animals that live in close proximity to humans tend to understand traffic.


“Urbanized bears actually know how to stop, look, listen and then cross,” said Sielsch, who has studied wildlife around South Lake Tahoe.

When a bear family tries to cross the road, the mother may go first, after making sure it’s safe. She will cross and wait for her cubs on the other side, but the cubs tend to bolt out whenever they feel comfortable, Sielsch said.

“That’s what happens a lot when we have cubs hit and killed by cars,” he added.

Nearly a century after the California grizzly was hunted to extinction, black bears are being killed by motorists in record numbers.

Jan. 16, 2022

The bears killed near Castaic could be unfamiliar with traffic or reacting to the unusual weather over the last year, including extreme heat and record-breaking snow and rainfall, said Beth Pratt, regional executive director with the National Wildlife Federation. The bears could also be thrown off course if someone has installed a fence along their usual route, Pratt said.

“Whatever it is, like any wildlife, they’re going to follow the food,” she said.

The nonprofit National Wildlife Federation raised millions of dollars for a wildlife crossing over Highway 101 to bridge the Santa Monica Mountains to the Simi Hills. The effort was inspired by mountains lions who trek across freeways in search of food or a mate.

Pratt said the bear strikes near Castaic raise concerns about the need for a wildlife crossing in that area.

“Whatever the motivation for their crossing, these deaths just underscore why these roads are such a hazard to wild animals,” Pratt said. “Developments are increasing, roads are getting bigger, there’s more traffic on the roads. We are further encroaching on their habitat.”