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Hiker hospitalized after bear that 'came out of nowhere' attacks near Sierra Madre

A hiker was hospitalized Monday after he encountered two bears and one of the animals attacked him in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains near Sierra Madre, authorities said.

The hiker was attacked about 10:45 a.m. about two miles north of Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park, near George's Cabin, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

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The hiker, who was described as a 53-year-old man, returned home and called authorities. He was later taken to a hospital in Arcadia, where he remains with injuries that are not life-threatening, Sierra Madre police Chief Larry Giannone said at a news conference.

"He sustained what we would know as a pretty good bear attack," Giannone said, adding that the attacking bear was likely between 200 to 300 pounds.

The city of Sierra Madre said in a statement that both the Bailey Canyon and Mt. Wilson trails were closed until further notice.

The hiker was alone when he said a bear appeared ahead of him in the middle of the trail and stood on its hind legs, DFW spokesman Andrew Hughan said. The hiker told authorities the bear was taller than him, meaning it was a full grown adult, Hughan said.

A few seconds after the bear stood up, the hiker was surprised to see a second animal.

"He did not see a second bear off to his left who came up and started attacking him," Giannone said.

The attack lasted a few seconds. "But I'm sure it felt a lot longer," Hughan said.

The man fought off the bear. Both bears then ran away, and the man got up to return to the trailhead.

The hiker suffered "several cuts and scratches and possible puncture wounds," Hughan said.

Two game wardens were in the area searching for the bear. If authorities find the animal and determine it is the bear responsible for the attack, it will be euthanized in accordance with department policy, officials said.

The park as well as the hiking trails leading to the site of the attack were closed, authorities said. The park, which is part of a small nature-study area with trails and oak trees, is surrounded by quiet residential streets and sits near a sprawling Catholic retreat center.

An estimated 25,000 to 30,000 black bears live in California, though the animals are more commonly seen in Central and Northern California. The larger and more bellicose grizzly bear was wiped out in the state more than 90 years ago, although in recent years there has been a modest campaign to reintroduce the animal here.

In Southern California's foothill communities, sprawling development and the effect of drought have made bear encounters or sightings an occasional event. Residents have reported spotting bears taking a dip in backyard pools or rummaging through trash bins.

But wildlife officials emphasize that bear attacks are rare.

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Chief Giannone said officers often see bears and usually don't spot aggressive behavior. Police "typically shoo them back up into the foothills," he said.

In June, a 120-pound black bear was euthanized after it injured a man who was camping above Altadena in the Angeles National Forest.

A bear scavenging for food on the outskirts of Yosemite National Park attacked a 67-year-old man last summer. The man survived but suffered numerous cuts to his arms, legs and body, as well as defensive wounds to his hands, DFW Lt. Chris Stoots said.

Twitter: @JosephSerna

Twitter: @MattHjourno

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UPDATES:

9:10 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the injuries sustained by the victim and background information.

2:30 p.m.: This article was updated with new details of the bear attack and the hiker.

This article was originally published at 1:35 p.m.

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