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‘Bad luck’ bear is euthanized after injuring Angeles National Forest camper

A 120-pound black bear was euthanized Wednesday, days after it injured a man who was camping in the Angeles National Forest above Altadena, officials said.

The female bear was found about 12 hours after Saturday’s attack, and was hiding in a tree south of Millard Campground near Altadena, said Andrew Hughan, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Fish and Wildlife officials tranquilized the bear and took it to a nearby facility, where authorities worked to determine whether it was the same ursine that attacked the camper.

Biologists took saliva, feces, hair and fiber samples from the bear and compared those with evidence collected at the campsite, he said. The department’s Wildlife Forensics Laboratory works to identify bears involved in human attacks by sampling their saliva and hair left at the scene.

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Because the nearly 2-year-old bear hurt the camper, Fish and Wildlife officials decided to euthanize the animal based on the risk posed to public safety, Hughan said.

“It was bad luck for the camper and bad luck for the bear,” he said.

The attack occurred about 2 a.m. Saturday when the camper was looking at his iPad and his tent fell down on him. He didn’t realize he was injured until he felt blood dripping on his face, officials said.

The camper was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for a laceration on his forehead. The injury required 18 stitches, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Hughan said it remains unclear why the bear scratched the camper because it wasn’t aggressive, nor was it hunting. It’s possible an odor drew the young bear to the area, he added.

The adolescent bear had likely separated from its family and was exploring the area, Hughan said,

“It’s just like a teenager going out to college,” he said.

Bear attacks are “incredibly rare” in California, Hughan said. Euthanizations are even more rare.

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The last bear euthanized was near San Luis Obispo in June 2011, when a black bear broke into four chicken coops over four separate nights. The bear was deemed to be habituated, meaning it had become a nuisance problem and would have likely returned even if it was moved.

Officers used rubber bullets and pepper balls to chase away the bear, which had already killed numerous chickens over two weeks.

According to the Fish and Wildlife Department, “habituated bears are not candidates for moving and shall either be humanely euthanized or placed with a permitted animal care facility upon failure of the corrective measures.”

One of those habituated bears was “Meatball” the Glendale bear, who earned national attention after he was caught eating frozen Costco meatballs from a garage refrigerator in 2012. He had been slated to be euthanized after repeatedly returning to the Angeles National Forest, but an animal sanctuary in San Diego County stepped in and took the animal.

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In the latest case, Hughan said the public-safety risk was incredibly high and that euthanization was the only option.

On the day of the attack, two other campers reported seeing the bear running away from the area during the night. The unprovoked attack and sightings prompted Fish and Wildlife officials to close Millard Campground for three days as they tried to trap the bear. The campground has since been reopened.

Similar trapping techniques were used in October 2012, when a 250-pound female bear attacked a 50-year-old woman as she was walking her dogs on a trail in the Los Padres National Forest. After the bear pushed the woman into an embankment, she played dead until it finally left the area.

Fish and Wildlife officials set out traps in the area, but the bear never returned and was never caught.

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In that instance, Hughan said, the bear would have been likely euthanized.

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