Elisabeth Torres, Global Animal 

A 300-lb black bear was spotted strolling through residential neighborhoods heading towards the freeway in Montrose, CA. Highway patrol stopped traffic and a deputy helicopter monitored the scene while waiting for Fish and Game officials to arrive. The bear was successfully tranquilized and officials delivered him to a location deep in the Los Angeles National Forest.  

Fish and Game authorities said the bear was just probably hungry. Their population has rapidly increased and food sources dry up in the late summer. Wild animal sightings in human communities are to be expected in areas bordering the forest, and the residents on Montrose have a truly refreshing mindset towards the bears that wander into their neighborhoods.

The tranquilized bear being taken back into the forest. Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times, Frank Shyong

According to the Los Angeles Times, “After Sunday morning services at Montrose Community Church, people gathered to discuss the sighting and expressed relief as word spread that the bear was safely returned to the forest.”  The community has an emergency alert system that can notify thousands of residents when a wild animal is nearby and it seems residents have actually become protective of their four-legged neighbors.

One bear who was particularly fond of Montrose was nicknamed, Meatball. One citizen even created him a twitter account to help raise awareness of the dangers faced by bears that make repeated trips into human territory. After Meatball’s second time having to be removed from the community by authorities, he was taken to an exotic animal refuge in San Diego as officials try to find him a more permeant home.

This take on living near wild animals is drastically different than many areas in the country. In Colorado, Meatball’s fate would have been much different. The state has a “two-strike” policy for bears that wander into civilization. The first time, the bear is tranquilized, tagged, and released. The second time, they are euthanized. Colorado wildlife officials said they  have euthanized 80 “problem bears” so far this year, and 133 last year. 

As we continue to encroach on their territory, run-ins with bears and other wildlife are not going to decrease anytime soon. This time of year bears are gearing up for hibernation, and are desperately trying to find enough food to sustain them through the winter. Measures can be taken to reduce encounters with wild animals, such as building animal underpasses along freeways, but until then, society needs to be able to coexist with them peacefully.  Rather than kill them off, why not take a lesson from the citizens of Montrose, and embrace them as a unique part of our own community. — Global Animal