City has its own bear to cross

He's no Meatball, but La Cañada Flintridge's own bear — not nearly as famous as his relative from Glendale — made at least his second appearance this week on Pomander Place.

On Thursday a gardener working at the home of Mark and Dee Martinez spotted the bear, a month to the day after the ursine's first visit. Mark Martinez said the bear knocked over a trash can and headed up the street between noon and 1 p.m.

Martinez believes the bear is the same young adult that climbed a tree in his backyard on June 20. His theory is that the bear follows Flint Creek up from Hahamongna Watershed Park through the neighborhood.

“There's fresh water down there, and he's found somewhere cool to stay,” he said.

California Department of Fish and Game spokesman Andrew Hughan agreed it is likely the same suspect because bears tend to return to the scene of the crime as many times as they can.

“Bears become very much habituated to an area, they smell familiar smells, and if there's something good in a particular trash can, they come right back to the same place over and over and over. They're looking for the easiest meal possible,” he said.

Hughan said deforestation from the 2009 Station fire is not the cause of this year's increase in bear activity. Rather, he said, it is the result of residents in bear territory having fruit in their yard or meat in their trash.

“It's not a bear problem, it's a people problem,” Hughan said. “If you eliminate the attractant, the bear will go to the next easiest place.”

On Friday, Dee Martinez pointed out the grape trellises in her backyard, but said the bear hasn't touched the grapes and prefers to root through trash for its spoils.

She said Pomander Place is something of a wildlife thoroughfare, as coyotes, raccoons and even a bobcat have been spotted using the cul-de-sac to get from Flint Creek to a nearby canyon.

Mark Martinez noted that squirrels seem to disappear when the bear is around, and he urged his human neighbors to be careful, as well.

Hughan said wild animals are highly susceptible to predators, and he is not surprised to hear that other animals make themselves scarce when a bear is in the neighborhood. Although there has not been a verified bear attack in California outside Yosemite in more than a century, Hughan said, residents encountering a bear should give it space and call 911 if they feel threatened.

“[Bears] don't attack people, but they scare easily; they're skittish and shy, and you can be hurt by a bear if you're between it and the wild space,” he said.

Tips from Department of Fish and Game officials include setting garbage cans out on the curb only on the morning of pickup; spraying the cans with bleach or ammonia to mask the lingering scents; taking in animal bowls and feeders; and harvesting fruit in residential gardens as soon as it is ripe.

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