This year’s continued drought may be contributing to recent bear sightings in the Bishop area.
Reports came in over the weekend placing one or more bears on West Line Street in the area of Calvary Baptist Church, and in the Round Valley area near the CalFire Conservation Corps camp.
Inyo County Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Carma Roper said Monday that sheriff’s dispatch was notified of a bear on West Line Street at about 10 p.m. Sunday.
Shortly after deputies arrived the bear disappeared into thick brush. By 11 p.m. the bear reappeared, only this time reports indicated the bear was rummaging through trash in the Snow Circle area of Bishop. Sheriff’s deputies and Tribal Police located the bear in the middle of a residential driveway eating trash. Once spotted, the bear ran off into a field east of Longview Drive.
According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife Lieutenant Bill Dailey, it is not uncommon for bears to wander from the foothills of the Sierra into the Owens Valley at this time of year. “We’re keeping an eye on it,” Dailey said. “This time of year, especially with the drought, there’s not a lot of food for the bears in the hills, and they start roaming.”
Dailey also said that displacement, when older bears get pushed out of their territory by younger bears, or when adolescent cubs leave their mothers, also forces bears to begin wandering, often into the Owens Valley. Dailey said the bears don’t often stay long, and typically head back into the hills. “Unless they’re habituated, they don’t like to be close to humans.”
Dailey said that the DFW is planning to keep tabs on the bear or bears, and allow it to head back into the foothills on its own, unless it becomes accustomed to humans and begins associating humans with food.
Dailey said tranquilizing and physically moving the bear is a last resort. “We may need to encourage it (to move on) if it sticks around. If there’s no harm, there’s no foul. But we don’t want to have to relocate it if we don’t have to.
Dailey said that it is always a good idea for residents, especially those on the outskirts of town, to secure their garbage and other items bears – and other wildlife – might see as food.
“It’s always a good idea to lock up your garbage, whether it’s a drought year or not,” Dailey said. “Other animals, like ravens, mountain lions, raccoons, coyotes, get into garbage. And if they get accustomed to it, it could lead to problems.”
Dailey said that if a resident encounters a bear on their property, it is best to leave it be and call the DFW Bishop office at (760) 872-1171. If an animal is acting aggressive, Dailey said residents should dial 911.
For information on bear-proofing your residence, visit the DFW’s “Keep me Wild” webpage at www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/bear.html .