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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.

Expert: The Three Categories of Bad Bears

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

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