Expert: The Three Categories of Bad Bears

California Department of Fish and Game biologist Rebecca Barboza gave bear safety tips to Monrovia residents Wednesday night.

Trash-loving bears have long pestered hillside residents by knocking over garbage cans, , and sometimes .

The hungry animals enjoy feasting on unharvested fruit and have in their hunt for garbage, and residents have grown accustomed to the animals roaming around the north part of town.

But bears can also get too comfortable, and when they do, they can become especially dangerous, according to California Department of Fish and Game biologist Rebecca Barboza.

Barboza was the featured speaker at a meeting at Monrovia's Wednesday that focused on peacefully coexisting with local wildlife.

"The mere presence of wildlife such as bears does not necessarily pose an imminent threat to public health and public safety," Barboza said in an interview Wednesday.

Like hurricanes, bears can be classified depending on their relative danger. The Department of Fish and Game uses a three-tier system to rank the danger posed by the furry creatures.

The first class of bears are those that have wandered into residential neighborhoods accidentally. They are often juveniles and want nothing more than to leave, Barboza said. She refers to these kinds of bears as "no harm, no foul bears," and said such bears can usually be scared away.

The second group of bears is what's known as "nuisance bears." These are bears that come down to forage on trash. They sometimes become reliant on garbage as a food source and may not respond to efforts to scare them away.

"They'll kind of become kind of nonchalant if you yell at it," Barboza said.

The third classification--the "Category 3 bear"--poses the greatest risk to humans, Barboza said. These bears are the ones that cause damage to private property. Such bears are usually the product of repeated exposure to humans and their behavior becomes gradually more aggressive over time.

"It's usually a progression of behaviors that gets to that point," Barboza said.

If the Department of Fish and Game determines that a Category 3 bear poses a significant public safety threat, it can issue a depredation permit to a landowner that allows that person to trap or kill the animal.

"The landowner must demonstrate theat they've attempted to minimize the attractants" like garbage or unharvested fruit, Barboza said.

If bears pose an "imminent threat" to public safety, the officers from the Department of Fish and Game or the can go as far as euthanizing the bear themselves, Barboza said.

Barboza said that she is commonly asked why bears cannot just be trapped and relocated when they are causing trouble. Moving a bear elsewhere would merely make it more irritated and more likely to pose a danger to the next humans it comes in contact with, she said.

"If we were to take it and move it somewhere else, that would be very irresponsible of us because we would just be moving it to somebody else's neighborhood," Barboza said.

Bears can also travel hundreds of miles to get back to their home range, so relocating them would not necessarily keep them out for good, Barboza said.

"They have a home range for a reason," she said.

In order to keep bears out of residential neighborhoods, Barboza provided the following tips and suggestions:

  • Secure garbage with bear-resistant containers
  • Freeze liquid garbage until trash day
  • Deodorize trash cans
  • Routinely clean barbecue grills
  • Keep pet food indoors
  • Harvest fruit from fruit trees, pick up fallen fruit
  • Never feed bears on purpose
Karen Suarez September 08, 2011 at 06:57 PM
What are the three categories for people??? :) So this ranger gets a call from an hysterical person: Oh my god there is a bear in my back yard! Ranger: That's funny, I just got a call from a bear saying: Who put that house in my front yard??
Ellen Zunino September 08, 2011 at 08:06 PM
Being up at the crack of dawn (which is very early in the summer) to put my hummingbird feeders up for the day, I usually break the first law of living in bear country: make some noise. More than once both my half-asleep self and a bear wandering through my front yard have startled one another. Facing a big bear in the thin light of dawn is a better wake me up than coffee.
Kate K. September 09, 2011 at 04:18 AM
We don't have a bear problem: We have a human problem--- humans with unrealistic expectations of our foothills and people being fed false, sensational stories about bears. Why are all local bears being labelled by the reporter as, "Bad Bears"? The speaker did not call them "Bad". The three categories are for bears that happen to be living near us. The first category was definitely not bears that are "bad", indeed its those most innocuous. Its this need by media to sensationalize wildlife (not just bears, but bobcats, coyotes, sharks, snakes, bees, etc...) by making nature more "dangerous" and 'threatening" than it is, just in order to appeal to the fearful emotions of an audience, which produces the REAL threat--- both to human safety as well as the wildlife. The more sensational the depiction, the more likely that humans will respond with fear and bravado. I'm far more afraid of humans with guns, home-rigged electric fences, poisons, and other radical responses than I am of the bears. The bears are not seeking to harm or kill; the humans are. The more media mischaracterize animal behavior as "bad" the more people feel justified in violent and dangerous actions to "get rid of" the "bad" animals.
Kate K. September 09, 2011 at 04:28 AM
Yes, noise is the natural deterrent to large wildlife encounters. In Glacier Nat'l. Park, they sell at cost "Bear Bells" for people to put on their backpacks, waders and hiking staffs, so the bells ring as you walk and warn the bear and moose of your nearness. (Moose actually kill more humans annually than grizzlies or black bears do. ) The bells' noise is very effective! Alas, many hikers refuse to use them, as they want to "encounter" the animals, not being cognizant that a startled grizzly or moose feels threatened, and such fear is dangerous. Here at home, I always rattle the gate and shuffle my slippers along ground in the morning to warn not just bears, but racoons, skunk, deer, etc. of my trek down the drive. Any wild animal when startled can cause injury to itself if it panics when startled. And it might harm a unsuspecting human as well.
Suzy September 09, 2011 at 07:10 PM
Thank you, Kate K., I completely agree with you! It's a real shame when humans are inculcated with sensationalized messages that drum up fear over wildlife. A wiser and more truthful message is that humans can learn how to safely and harmoniously share this homeland to wildlife and humans alike. It is a marvelous experience to behold a wild animal from a safe distance. They are just trying to survive and enjoy life, just like us human animals. Sometimes we forget that there are many ways we can respond to bears in our backyards. We can choose to react to wildlife with appreciation and reverence, instead of fear and a panicked call to Animal Control. I say, let's keep our distance, keep our trash away from bears, and then let them be. If they are damaging something in the yard, or doing something aggressive, try to scare them away with an air horn (from a safe distance) before calling in the guns. Bears no longer appear "bad" when we learn how to be "good" around them.
Suzy September 09, 2011 at 07:20 PM
PS to my previous comment of 9/9/2011: It appears that Nathan McIntire was the author of the "Bad Bears" column. I've read many of his articles on the Patch and I admire his good work. My guess is that the "Bad Bear" heading to his article was an effort to get people's attention, although I think it was an unfortunate choice of words. Nathan, thanks for keeping Monrovians "in the know" on issues that affect us. Even though some of us didn't think well of your article's name ("Bad Bears"), it sparked a lively conversation which I hope will elevate our thinking about how to coexist with bears.
jamie September 12, 2011 at 12:23 AM
We are lucky enough to live next to such immense portions of wildlife. We do not call to report bear sightings. They are frequent. Bears are as careful as we are, especially when their cubs are near.Keep your garbage inside.This is the most amazing area to live in, and Monrovia Foothills have become a paradise for the San Gabriel Mountains. It is such a treasure for wildlife. s motheral
Suzy September 15, 2011 at 04:11 AM
Here's a link to a video I made of a bear in our Koi Pond: http://youtu.be/v6cY0zz-958. It was a very hot day in Monrovia on Sept. 7, 2011. A wandering bear found our koi pond and decided to take a long dip to cool off. This video was taken with a zoom lens rom our kitchen window, where I was out of sight from the bear. I decided not to scare it off on this particularly hot day. It really seemed to enjoy cooling off. It didn't try to eat the fish, thank goodness. Bears deserve our respect and compassion. Keep your distance from them. Play it safe around bears, for your sake and theirs.
Kate K. September 15, 2011 at 04:52 AM
Great video, Suzy ! Love the music & dialogue! Bet your koi had more than a few new synapses develop in their little brains after that encounter. Have any more interesting bear visits on video ? Lots of us love seeing them: They're one of my favorite things about living here.
Suzy September 15, 2011 at 03:14 PM
So glad you enjoyed the video, Kate! Sometimes a little levity helps ameliorate a hot topic. Thanks for your encouragement to keep posting Monrovia wildlife videos. It's great to have "The Patch" as a forum to share.
Ellen Zunino September 15, 2011 at 10:09 PM
Fun video to watch! On that nasty hot day I'll bet your pond felt luscious! Does it come back often?


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