Several recent bear sightings leave area residents buzzing

MONTGOMERY CREEK — Several recent bear sightings in and around the unincorporated Intermountain community of Montgomery Creek have area residents buzzing and speculating about the reported increase of recent sightings.

Some area residents have speculated that the two recent Montgomery Creek bear sightings, as well as other sightings within Burney and neighboring Johnson Park, could possibly be related to bears in search of food or water, while others have said the sightings could be related to bears fleeing from the Carr Fire, which is still burning in and around Redding.

Anderson resident, Marisella Cardenas Anguiano, reported the most recent known sighting and later shared her experience on Facebook’s “What’s Happening In Burney, CA?.”

Anguiano reported spotting the “huge bear” Aug. 2, about 10:40 p.m., as it walked in the middle of SR-299 by Moose Camp Rd., about 10 miles west of downtown Burney.

“(It was the) biggest black bear we ever saw,” Anguiano described, adding, “Drive careful!”

Another area resident, Sharon Banyard, commented,I saw a smaller one up by Big Bend Road and 299.” That sighting was reported about a week earlier, about 10 miles west of last Thursday’s sighting.

Bear sightings are not uncommon within the Intermountain communities and Burney resident and co-owner of Eddie Erickson Photography, Karin Huntrods Erickson joined the conversation, writing that the “frequently seen” bear referred to by Anguiano “has been there for a long time.”

Jen Taylor reported a bear sighting from last year in the same area writing, We almost hit a baby bear running across the road.” That encounter also happened on SR-299, “going up from Montgomery Creek before you turn and start coming down toward Big Bend,” Taylor explained.

Another flurry of bear sightings was reported last May and on the 22nd, a CHP incident log indicated that a vehicle had struck a black bear, killing it. The incident reportedly happened on SR 299, “near the summit,” in the Hatchet Mountain area.

The very next day, another bear was spotted by numerous residents on Hudson and Ponderosa Streets, as well as nearby Ash and Birch Avenues, in downtown Burney. Despite the inherent danger, the multiple, repeated sightings amused many Burney residents who took to calling the wild animal their “Town Bear” and unofficially named the bear, believed to have been about 2-years-old, “Smokey Jr.”

One area resident even managed to capture cell phone footage of Smokey Jr., after it climbed a tall tree on a downtown residential property, where it reportedly remained for several hours before climbing back down and scampering off. The uninvited, but not entirely unwelcome, guest in town caused a stir for days, until the bear was reportedly captured and relocated outside town.

Calling sightings of wild black bears “an exciting and memorable experience,” the U.S. Forest Service recently explained that it is always important to be aware that if you live in or visit areas where bears are known to live or frequent, you could encounter one at any time.

Just like any wild animals, black bears can be unpredictable and encounters can sometimes be dangerous. But there are things people can do to minimize their risks of an unexpected or late night encounter, according to officials.

“Most conflicts between people and black bears are the result of people approaching and feeding bears, or allowing a bear to obtain garbage and pet/livestock feeds,” Forest Service officials explained. “You are responsible for your safety and the safety of the bears and learning the appropriate ‘Black Bear Safety Techniques’ will minimize the possibility of an encounter.

Among other safety protocols, according to the National Park Service, people should always remember:

  • Identify yourself by talking calmly so the bear knows you are a human and not a prey animal. Remain still; stand your ground but slowly wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you as a human. It may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening.
  • Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone. Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also react defensively by woofing, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back. Continue to talk to the bear in low tones; this will help you stay calmer, and it won’t be threatening to the bear. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.
  • Pick up small children immediately.
  • Hike and travel in groups. Groups of people are usually noisier and smellier than a single person. Therefore, bears often become aware of groups of people at greater distances, and because of their cumulative size, groups are also intimidating to bears.
  • Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground).
  • Do NOT allow the bear access to your food. Getting your food will only encourage the bear and make the problem worse for others.
  • Do NOT drop your pack as it can provide protection for your back and prevent a bear from accessing your food.
  • If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways; this allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears. Do NOT run, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down. Like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Do NOT climb a tree. Both grizzlies and black bears can climb trees.
  • Leave the area or take a detour. If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route.
  • Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs; never place yourself between a mother and her cub, and never attempt to approach them. The chances of an attack escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs.

Visit USDA Forest Service and National Park Service for more information about bear safety.

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, recently moved to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations, including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook, as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and The Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” boasts 13 children and 14 – soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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