Los Angeles

Man Says He Was Attacked by Bear in the Mountains Northeast of LA

The 84-year-old man told police he tried to fight the bear, but the 200-to-300-pound bear followed him into a neighborhood

An 84-year-old man said he was attacked by a bear while he was sleeping in the mountains northeast of Los Angeles.

The man said the attack happened 11:30 p.m. Tuesday as he slept in the hills off Santa Anita Avenue above Sierra Madre. He told police that he tried to fight off the bear, estimated at 200 too 300 pounds, but as he walked away the animal followed him into a neighborhood, where he sought help. 

"He came to a house on (Arno Drive), got behind a gate and waited for the bear to go in another direction," said Officer Grant Cadzow, of the Sierra Madre Police Department.

The man, who said he has been living in the mountains since 2002, suffered injuries to his face and arms. He was treated at the scene.

A bear with a tracking tag on its ear was caught on camera in the neighborhood early Wednesday. It was not immediately clear whether it was the bear involved in the attack.

Not surprisingly, several trash bins in the area had been tipped over. 

State Fish and Wildlife agents were called to the location, where bear sightings are not unusual. Bears like to feed on plants, insects, nuts, berries and whatever else they think of as edible -- such as the contents of trash bins. If food is scarce in their natural habitat, bears are likely to forage elsewhere, bringing them into Southern California foothill neighborhoods.

It's extremely rare for bears to attack humans in California, but it's best to follow these safety tips if you encounter a bear on a camping trip or in your neighborhood -- especially if it's a protective mother with her cubs.

Black bears, recognized by their small, narrow heads and small ears, have coats that range in color from tan or brown to black. Females grow up to about 200 pounds and males can be a hefty 350 pounds with some giants weighing in at more than 600 pounds.

California's black bear population has been on the rise over the last two decades, growing from an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 in the early 1980s to between 25,000 and 30,000 -- and that's a conservative estimate, according to the state department of fish and wildlife. They're good climbers who can easily scale a tree if they can't outrun a predator or just need some alone time.

The state has two subspecies of black bear -- the California black bear and the northwestern black bear. About half of the state's bear population can be found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and areas to the north and west. Only an estimated 10 percent of the black bear population inhabits central western and southwestern California.

Like many animals, bears use a combination of sounds and body language to communicate. A head held low below the shoulders is likely an indication of aggressive behavior or agitation, as do snarling, an open-and-closing mouth and bared teeth.

Although it's on the state flag, the fearsome grizzly bear no longer can be found in the California wild. The last grizzly bear observed in California was shot in the early 1920s.

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