Bear bites man working in orchard near Santa Paula; one of five attacks statewide in 2020

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By: Cheri Carlson

A man was treated for minor injuries after a bear bit him as he worked in an avocado orchard near Santa Paula last weekend, authorities said.

The man, working on a local ranch near Aliso Canyon Road, had a bite wound and scratches, said Capt. Patrick Foy with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The agency was investigating the incident, which was reported shortly before noon Saturday.

"The bear approached the man unprovoked as far as we can tell and started to bite him," Foy said. "It bit him in the leg."

The man had a pair of pruning shears in his hand and started hitting the bear with the shears, according to Foy. Two others in the area heard the commotion, picked up whatever they could and also started to hit the bear, he said.

The bear then ran off.

Since, traps were set in the area, but as of Tuesday morning, the bear had not been caught.

A year ago, Foy would have said it "was extraordinarily unusual" to have a bear attack in California.

But so far this year, the agency has reports of five separate bear attacks, including in Kern and northern Los Angeles counties as well as the latest in Ventura County.

"It's unusual to have any bear attack let alone five," Foy said.

If the animal has caused an injury to someone, particularly in an unprovoked attack, officials said they need to remove the bear if possible.

Using a swab of the victim's wound, they try to collect microscopic traces of bear DNA to create a genetic profile of the animal. That genetic profile is then compared to DNA from any bear captured.

If a captured bear turns out to be the same one that caused the injury, it likely would be euthanized.

In a couple other cases earlier this year, the bear was shot and killed on scene, Foy said. A bear has not been located in an incident reported in Sierra Madre area in Los Angeles County a couple of months ago, he said.

In that case, a woman had fallen asleep in a chair outdoors around 9 p.m. and said she woke up to a bear biting her leg, Foy said.

Three bears were trapped in the vicinity of that bite incident, but none of the animals matched the genetic profile in the case. Two of the three were released and one died because of a complication with the tranquilizing drug, according to Foy.

Attacks are 'extremely rare'. Samples were collected from the victim's wound in Saturday's local case and sent to a lab on Monday.

While there have been five incidents this year, Foy said such incidents remain rare.

Typically, they happen when bears are surprised and agitated. The animals are defending themselves or cubs and react, said Vicky Monroe, Fish and Wildlife's conflict programs coordinator.

Some bears also can become habituated to people and start to associate human activity with access to food sources. Those bears can become bold.

A typical black bear exhibiting normal behaviors is more like a big scaredy-cat, Monroe said. They don’t like people and get easily stressed.

She once saw a yearling – not realizing that he was nearly full grown – stay up in a tree for hours not moving because of a barking Chihuahua.

"That’s the norm," she said. “Aggressive bear encounters are extremely rare."

A few factors may be influencing California’s black bears this year, including the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting normal patterns of outdoor recreation, according to Monroe.

First, people and the food they can leave behind disappeared as campgrounds and parks closed in some areas. Then, there was an upswing and higher numbers of people showed up in spots. Some left behind more litter and left out more food.

At the same time, bears experience something called hyperphagia this time of year. That's when the animals sort of shift gears metabolically speaking and gain weight to prepare for winter, Monroe said.

Most recently, she said, the heat wave and wildfires have added more impacts on wildlife.

Wildlife experts say people can take steps to try to limit any encounters with animals such as making sure garbage cans have secure lids, keeping domestic animals in enclosures from dusk to dawn and not leaving pet food outdoors.

If you encounter a bear and it sees you, Monroe suggested using stressors such as a noise maker, a whistle, clapping your hands, shouting or stomping your feet.

If you encounter a bear and it doesn’t see you, that’s where the surprise element can come into play. Back away slowly and increase your distance, she said. Then, make noise.

To report bear sightings, call the Fish and Wildlife department at 858-467-4201. For more information and tips, go to

Cheri Carlson covers the environment for the Ventura County Star. Reach her at or 805-437-0260.

Posted on Αύγουστος 26, 2020 0420 ΜΜ by out_west_jess out_west_jess


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