State wildlife officials have set a trap for a black bear that attacked a woman on a hiking trail north of Ojai Friday, but they emphasized that they are not out searching for the bear.
California Department of Fish and Game policy dictates that the bear will be killed if trapped, according to spokesman Andrew Hughan.
The 250-pound cinnamon-colored sow attacked the 50-year-old woman as she was walking on Gridley Trail (map) with her three dogs in Los Padres National Forest, northeast of town.
"Our policy is when the evidence shows an unprovoked attack, that animal shall be humanely euthanized. There's no leeway in the policy," Hughan said.
"Nobody in the Department of Fish and Game wants to destroy an animal, but sometimes circumstances dictate that we have to," he added. "It's the lousiest part of our job."
Hughan compared the department's policy to a police response that would have been prompted if a woman had been attacked by a human predator on a hiking trail.
"The police would be up there looking for an assault," Hughan said. "The bear essentially assaulted a person."
The victim, a local Ojai resident who asked to remain unidentified, was walking north of Ojai at 7 a.m. Friday when she was attacked. A female bear with a cub crossed in front of her, then returned to either bite or scratch her wrist.
The bear pushed her down an embankment, then followed her. At the bottom, the woman played dead and eventually the bear left. The woman had injuries to her wrist and back but did not seek medical treatment, according to state officials.
The trail, pictured at right, was closed by the U.S. Forest Service, and wildlife wardens were investigating. But Hughan said wardens were not out "hunting" for the bear.
For a trap, wardens have used the same 4-foot culvert pipe trap laden with food that caught the beloved foothill-romping bear Meatball this past summer.
There had been no sign of the bear by 1:30 p.m Saturday, Hughan said.
Hughan said Saturday that officials have a good description of the bear and that – if a similar one is caught in their trap – the woman may be asked to help identify the sow.
He said bear-related issues are sensitive in Ojai, where wardens shot and killed a bear several years ago.
Then, in the past year, a permit was issued to a property owner to shoot and kill a bear that was creating a nuisance. The bear was shot but not killed and ran off into the brush. That caused an uproar in the small, scenic mountain community of about 7,500 on the edge of the Los Padres National Forest.
Earlier this month, a bear cub was rescued from the Ojai area after being found abandoned in an avocado orchard. The cub was taken to a wildlife center in Lake Tahoe.
Hughan said there's no indication that the bear in Friday's attack was the mother.
The state has confirmed 15 bear attacks since 1980. The most recent was in 2010 in Lake Tahoe, Hughan said. In 2008, a woman was mauled near Bakersfield.
Hughan said in 143 years of state record-keeping, no person has ever been killed by a bear.