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Bearsplainer: Is SoCal the Australia For Bad Yosemite Bears?

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Yesterday, a hilariously irreverent bear who obviously loves to play by his own rules caused a mess of trouble in Granada Hills when he climbed a 50-foot tree near a church and school, then "ran through backyards and across a golf course," undeterred by a tranquilizer shot. After an 11-hour chase and five tranquilizer darts, wildlife officials and the LAPD found him passed out in a Juniper patch, and were planning this morning to take him back home to the Los Padres National Forest. But this bear has caused trouble before: he was also caught and sent back to the forest on June 3. Last week, a bear nearly ended it all on the 210 Freeway after a romp through Pasadena, and last year a bear named Meatball foraged his way into Glendale's trashcans and hearts over repeated visits to the city. Why are SoCal bears so bad? Maybe because they're all descended from criminals, like Australians?

Earlier this year, the LA Sheriff's Department put out a bear advisory that casually mentioned that "The Black Bears were introduced into the San Gabriel Mountains in 1933. They are all descendants of 11 bears deported from Yosemite National Park for being troublemakers." In other words, the San Gabriel Mountains were like a penal colony for hard-living Depression-era bears and no one ever stopped to consider what would happen if Los Angeles sprawled all the way out to the edge of this prison forest.

But that's actually a bear smear: these were really CLOWN bears. KPCC tracked down the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's "bear whisperer," who in turn tracked down a 1930s wildlife journal noting that the state's Fish and Game president at the time wanted some bears in the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests, for amusement. In November 1933, 28 bears were captured in Yosemite and transported to Southern California (one bear was "lost through injuries which occurred during trapping and transportation," 11 were placed near Crystal Lake in the Angeles National Forest). The journal says that "If they thrive, they will become a real attraction to the thousands of visitors who spend summers and week-ends in the mountain playgrounds. Their comical, clownish appearance and actions are a never ending source of amusement to youngsters and adults alike." But it does not mention anything about them being particularly bad.

It does note that natural feed was scarce up there, which is probably still why bears are seen down in civilization so often. A Fish and Wildlife rep tells KTLA "It's very normal fall behavior ... They're bulking up for winter; they're getting their fat layer." And there's no evidence that there are any more bears now than ever (there are probably a few hundred at this point), we just like watching them more. The rep adds: "Bears have taken over car chases in Los Angeles."
· Bears gonna bear: 'Troublemakers' may have been falsely accused [SCPR]