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City pushes for response to bear sightings

Department of Fish and Game official will speak to City Council members on Monday.

April 29, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
  • A bear makes its way back toward the Angeles National Forest early last Thursday after spending most of the night dining on chickens in the backyard of a home on Bonita Vista Drive. (Courtesy of John Peterson)
A bear makes its way back toward the Angeles National Forest…

A representative of the California Department of Fish and Game will attend a La Cañada Flintridge City Council meeting on Monday to answer questions about that agency’s response to recent resident encounters with bears and schedule a future public forum about the issue.

There have been multiple bear sightings in hillside areas of the city over the past four months, including a highly publicized incident on April 21 in which a bear ate four chickens from a coop behind a home on Bonita Vista Drive.

The Department of Fish and Game, which has jurisdiction over wildlife encounters, does not interfere with bears and other potentially dangerous wildlife unless an animal is aggressive toward people or presents an imminent threat to human safety, which the bear roaming in La Cañada has not, said spokesman Andrew Hughan.

Concerned with the frequency of bear sightings, City Manager Mark Alexander contacted Fish and Game officials this week asking for game wardens to step up possible interventions.

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“We advised them that there is community concern in regard to the bear, and we’re looking for ways the Department of Fish and game can be more proactive to try to resolve this problem,” said Alexander. “Our view from a community perspective differs from theirs.”

Fish and Game’s Hughan said the department is sticking to its policies and does not plan to try to relocate the bear.

“I understand [Alexander] wants to try to do everything he can to do what he thinks is right for his constituents in the city, but our policy is clear. In the case of bear-human interaction, we do not trap bears and we do not kill bears unless it’s deemed a public safety issue, and that means an imminent threat to people. An imminent threat to chickens is not a public safety issue,” said Hughan.

Fish and Game Capt. Mike Stefanak said that he plans to speak at Monday night’s La Cañada City Council meeting, where he will speak briefly with council members and announce the date of a future public forum to address community concerns.

In the meantime, Hughan said that efforts trap and relocate bears from neighborhoods are fruitless and unnecessary.

“Relocation just doesn’t work. There’s been attempt after attempt after attempt to relocate bears similar to this one. We can move a bear 100 miles away and a couple of weeks later the bear will find its way right back to that same trashcan,” said Hughan.

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