SPPD: Black bear first thought to be mountain lion, then prowler

May 21, 2010
Santa Paula Police Department

The encounter Santa Paula Police had with a black bear more than a week ago in a residential area ended well for everyone.

The bear turned out to be neither the mountain lion a McKevett Heights resident initially reported nor the prowler a SPPD officer at first thought was hiding in the bushes.

A resident called the SPPD May 12 at about 9 p.m. to report they saw what they believed to be a mountain lion in their backyard. SPPD Senior Officer Jeremy Watson searched the yard; when nearby bushes shook he saw something black and thought a prowler was attempting to hide. “I demanded that he come out of the bushes,” said Watson, “and it did.”

Watson admitted he was startled by the approximately six-feet tall, 450 or so pound bear that suddenly poked its head out of the bushes. He joked he was afraid the animal would “give me a bear hug... it spooked me at first, but who wouldn’t be spooked?”

Watson called for police backup and Fish & Game was notified and responded to the scene, as did Santa Paula Fire Department personnel. “Fish and Game had to tranquilize the bear several times,” as after the first attempt the apparently slumbering bear woke up suddenly when approached. SPPD Officer Matt Alonso said it took “several hours” for the bear to finally, irrevocably be declared out for the night. Fish & Game double-strapped the bear for transport, and SPFD firefighters used special equipment designed for carrying larger adults down staircases to load the bear.

Watson said the bear had a yellow ear tag on the side signifying a female specimen, and at first it was suspected the animal might have chosen the bushes to deliver a baby. But it turned out the bear was an older male, evidenced by how worn down its teeth were.

The bear, Watson noted, had been tagged so long ago that all identifying marks had worn off the ear marker. Fish & Game officials, he added, said the bear was particularly large, “about double the size” of a bear recently removed from an Oxnard neighborhood.

Watson had a possible explanation for the bear’s size, as well as its choice of hiding place: “I think it got into an avocado orchard and overate” before finding a comfortable spot in the bushes to rest. The incident was declared over at about 4 a.m.; Fish & Game retagged the bear before they relocated it to forestland.


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