A record number of bears have been reported and have been spotted in every Three Rivers neighborhood during the last two weeks. Bear sightings are nothing new in a foothills community like Three Rivers, but these bruins are the most brazen yet. This season’s visitors are just as likely to be sighted in broad daylight as they are in the dark of night.
Bear size— California has one type of bear — the American black bear, which is the smallest of all North America’s species. They come in color variations from dark blonde to cinnamon brown to dark black. Typically, they can weigh 350 to 400 pounds, but bears habituated to human food often grow much larger.
Bear signs— Dogs barking incessantly during the nighttime hours are a sure sign that bears are present. Cleaning up overturned garbage containers have become the morning routine on Mineral King Road, Skyline Drive, Dinely Drive, the North and South fork areas, along Sierra Drive, and in Cherokee Oaks.
Bear cravings— The strong scent of human food is just too tempting for bears to resist, especially during a drought when food and water sources have dried up. But according to one resident on South Fork Drive, don’t be too quick to place all the blame on bears. He found telltale hoof prints all around his overturned can suggesting even deer are getting into the act.
Where bears are— Several residents have reported that the bears have come right up on their decks and are peering through windows. In one case, in the Sierra King area (Mineral King Road), a bear entered the house through a temporary entryway during a remodeling project.
This lack of fear of humans and tame behavior has state wildlife officials concerned because the most serious injuries and several deaths have resulted during encounters after the subject bear had received handouts. The recurring four years of drought has attracted more bears this year and a few weeks earlier than in past seasons.
Dead bears— Remember, a fed bear is a dead bear, and bears die due to human mistakes. Several bears have reportedly been euthanized this season in nearby Sequoia National Park. At least two bears were trapped and killed recently in Mineral King and another one cub died after being hit by a shuttle bus on the Generals Highway.
No one should be the cause of a bear casualty in Three Rivers. Last year, four local bears were shot and killed because they pilfered chickens from flimsily constructed coops.
Bear tips— Bears are extremely active this season in search of food and water. Here are some basic steps every resident and visitor can take to prevent wildlife tragedy.
—Bear proof all garbage containers. (Bear-proofing a trash can may be done for a cost of $20 and in about 15 minutes. Email bearproof3R@gmail.com to take advantage of this community service.)
—Wait to put trash out until an hour or so before the truck comes on the designated collection day. (If you can’t be there to remove your bear-proofing device prior to your trash being collected, let the driver know. He is willing to help and would much rather remove your clip than clean up a roadside mess.)
—Don’t leave trash, groceries, or pet food in your vehicle.
—Keep garbage cans clean and deodorized.
—Store cleaned barbecue grills in the garage or shed when not in use.
—Don’t leave scented candles, insect repellent, or any other scented items outside.
—Keep doors and windows closed and locked in areas where food is cooked and stored.
—Harvest ripe fruit immediately and promptly collect any fruit that falls.
—It takes some effort and some minor inconvenience but it is possible to prevent another bear from being killed.