A young black bear with police in pursuit took a meandering trip through Sierra Madre this week, past City Hall and downtown businesses and through alleys, backyards and apartment complexes before being captured and returned to the mountains.
The female bear was first spotted just after 10:30 a.m. Monday at Grandview Avenue and Lima Street by Ben Rillorta, who heard his border collie barking and saw the bear in his backyard. The bear escaped over a fence, made its way to the street and headed south, Rillorta said.
He notified Sierra Madre police, who met up with the bear at the historic Pinney House and tried to corral it and push it north toward the mountains, police Chief Larry Giannoni said. But the bear jumped through yards and continued south to busy Sierra Madre Boulevard, where it eventually traveled past the police station, City Hall, downtown businesses and surprised bystanders.
Hanh Le, a manicurist at Tropical Nail Spa, looked out the salon’s glass storefront on Sierra Madre Boulevard and noticed a police car making a U-turn. Then she saw the bear running down the street and on the sidewalk in front of the salon. “I said, ‘Oh my God, bear!’” Everyone ran out to look, she said.
Police pushed the bear off the main drag to keep it out of the Kersting Court dining and shopping area, and it passed behind the city’s post office before crossing Baldwin Avenue, Giannoni said. Officers thought they had the animal contained in a nearby residential area, but after resting the bear escaped and continued east.
As the bear traveled through the San Gabriel Valley town, accompanied by police cars and circling helicopters, the city updated residents on Facebook and Twitter and asked people to steer clear of the frightened animal.
About 12:30 p.m., the bear climbed into a backyard tree in the 200 block of East Highland Avenue, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials arrived on the scene. By about 1:45 p.m., they had tranquilized and safely captured the bear.
The animal was tagged and transported to the Angeles National Forest, where it was released about 4 p.m. Monday, according to Fish and Wildlife Capt. Mike Stefanak.
“Officers stayed on the scene until the bear was up and moving,” he said, noting that it appeared to be in good shape and “walked off without any difficulties at all.”
Stefanak described the black bear as a solo female with distinctive markings, probably just older than a year and weighing 100 to 110 pounds.
It has been a frequent visitor to Sierra Madre and had been venturing farther south.
“We’ve been dealing with this particular bear probably 20 to 30 times in the last six weeks,” Giannoni said.
He said police usually push bears back up toward the mountains and don’t call Fish and Wildlife until the bears move too far south or go someplace public safety is an issue.
“This time we didn’t have a choice,” he said.