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Contact: Zach Behrens, 805-370-2385
Thousand Oaks, CA - Evidence of a black bear in the Santa Monica Mountains was discovered Tuesday by National Park Service employees. The researchers were reviewing photos from two camera traps set up in Malibu Creek State Park to monitor for wildlife movement and came upon images of the mammal dated July 26.
The Santa Monica Mountains have not had a resident bear population since the 1800s, when grizzlies were extirpated from California. Since then, black bears have settled in the mountains bordering the north end of Los Angeles, including the Santa Susana and San Gabriel Mountains, but it is extremely rare for a black bear to be found south of the 101 Freeway.
Stories and evidence of bears in the area do occasionally surface, however, such as the one killed in 2014 on a 101 Freeway off-ramp in Westlake Village. A wildlife crossing is proposed for neighboring Agoura Hills after research on local wildlife has indicated the need for habitat connectivity between the Santa Monica Mountains and open space to the north. In particular the small mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains has some of the lowest known genetic diversity anywhere in the west. During the course of the 14-year study, researchers have documented only one occasion when a mountain lion has successfully crossed into the Santa Monica Mountains from the north.
“The ecological health of the Santa Monica Mountains depends in part on our ability to maintain natural connections with areas north of the freeway,” said David Szymanski, superintendent for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service.
National Park Service researchers will be checking camera traps around Liberty Canyon, where the wildlife crossing in Agoura Hills is proposed, to see if the bear may have crossed there.
“Malibu Creek State Park is over 8,000 acres of open space and is connected to a much larger network of habitat,” noted Craig Sap, district superintendent for the Angeles District of California State Parks. “If this bear decides to stay, let’s see what we can do to co-exist with it.”
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife offers tips on co-existing with bears at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild/Bear.
Since 1996, the National Park Service has been studying carnivores in and around the Santa Monica Mountains to determine how they survive in an increasingly fragmented and urbanized environment. During the course of the study, biologists have studied more than 340 bobcats, 145 coyotes, and 50 mountain lions.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) is the largest urban national park in the country, encompassing more than 150,000 acres of mountains and coastline in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. A unit of the National Park Service, it comprises a seamless network of local, state and federal parks interwoven with private lands and communities. As one of only five Mediterranean ecosystems in the world, SMMNRA preserves the rich biological diversity of more than 450 animal species and 26 distinct plant communities. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/samo.