An increase in bear sightings and break-ins throughout Sierra Madre has some residents on edge, with at least one community event recently canceled over safety concerns.
Officials said there have been over 30 calls reporting bears in the past month alone.
Residents met with city officials and wildlife experts on Saturday at the Sierra Madre Public Library to discuss ways to approach the potential dangers.
Recent sightings in the area include bears spotted in backyard swimming pools, exploring front porches and breaking into homes to enjoy a snack in the kitchen.
As bear sightings and encounters become more frequent in Southern California, wildlife officials are focusing on ways residents and animals can coexist peacefully.
“It’s typical to see an increase in bear sightings this time of year because bears are entering hyperphagia where they are trying to get 20,000 calories a day to pack on the fat for denning and hibernation,” explained Mackenzie Rich, a Human Wildlife Conflict Specialist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Worried residents postponed a family campout event in Memorial Park this weekend over concerns of a possible bear encounter. Locals are now wondering what options they can take to tackle the growing issue.
“What they want to see happen is a management plan or a plan of action from Fish and Wildlife where our safety is not compromised,” said Catherine Adde, a Sierra Madre resident. “So many homes have been broken into.”
Although Adde said she’s not too bothered by the bears, others are worried that an encounter could become deadly. Some residents are hoping the bears can be safely tranquilized and relocated to a less populated community.
“We’re in a situation now that is a result of Fish and Wildlife not managing the bear population in the wilderness to a point where the population increased beyond what the wilderness can sustain,” said Glenn Lambdin, the former Mayor of Sierra Madre. “It forced the bears into residential neighborhoods.”
Lambdin is convinced the bears are habituated and can no longer survive in the wilderness.
“Bears have no business living in residential neighborhoods,” Lambdin said. “So all of the urbanized, habituated bears need to be removed. The population in the wilderness needs to be reduced to a level that is sustainable.”
Others, however, disagree with Lambdin’s take, saying the area also belongs to the bears and locals just need to find a way to coexist while taking preventative safety measures.
“If you don’t like crime, don’t live in a big city,” said Randal Preece, a Sierra Madre resident. “If you don’t like trees, don’t live in the mountains. Killing the animals is not the answer.”
Preece said residents in the area just need to use common sense to avoid any issues with bear encounters.
Wildlife sightings in the area, which is in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, are not uncommon, said Laura Aguilar, a Sierra Madre city spokesperson.
Officials are implementing a new bear mitigation plan that includes more education for residents on bear encounters, along with tagging local bears to easily identify repeat offenders.
Beginning in October, every Sierra Madre resident will also receive a free bear-proof trash bin for outdoor use.