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Black Bears in Brooktrails: Living on the Edge of the Wild

Nothing reminds Emerald County residents of our close relationship with nature like wildlife arriving on the doorstep. Citizens of Brooktrails Township, a census-designated community northwest of Willits, have reported a rash of black bear encounters over the last week bringing into focus the stewardship and vigilance residents of the wildland-urban interface must practice. 

About 5 p.m. on October 27, Devon Redin, a resident of Brooktrails, noticed a black bear bounding across her yard. She said that the bears had “never gotten into our trashcans” and suspected the bear was “just passing through” due to the fact she lives near Brooktrail’s greenbelt, where wildlife often travel.

Brooktrails resident Joe Lac’s security camera captured a black bear on Monday, October 26, at 1:30 a.m., sniffing around his property and strolling away with a trash bag in his jaws. After the late-night visit, Lac said he would be using bungee cords to secure his trashcan and keep it behind the fence.

Charlie Fales Jr, another Brooktrails resident, captured a black bear on his security camera sneaking around his driveway on October 24 at 2:42 a.m. The footage clearly shows the black bear fleeing as soon as his motion sensor light illuminates the driveway.

Brooktrails resident Chris Lewis said his garbage was out for only ten minutes when he found a black bear rooting through it. He said his family had to cancel their garbage service because the bear successfully got through two ratchet straps and a bungee cord he was using to secure the trash can.

Angela Moran, an environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, provided several strategies residents can practice to deter bears from their property.

  1. Moran said bears are drawn to human domiciles because of common attractants, including garbage cans, barbeques, bird feeders, and fruit-bearing trees.
  2. Regarding garbage and trash cans, Moran suggests putting trash cans out the morning of collection rather than the night before, decreasing the time bears have to find it. She also suggested bear-proofing trash cans by bleaching and deodorizing.
  3. Moran said common deterrents used to ward off wildlife include motion-sensor alarms, sprinklers, and lights. She even referenced installing electric fencing or utilizing an electric doormat because bears have proven sensitive to electricity.
  4. When letting pets out at night, Moran suggested using exterior lighting to ensure no bears are present and consider making noise to ward off nearby wildlife. She added it is good practice to secure livestock at night and predator-proof chicken coops.
  5. To make sure animals do not enter the confines of a residence, Moran said homeowners must make sure to close all entrances and block access to crawl spaces. 

In the case of a black bear entering a home, Moran suggests residents not confront the bear and not block any exit points because the bear will naturally look for a safe route to flee. If the bear does not leave, Moran recommended getting to a safe place and calling 911. 

Moran said making loud noises such as whistling or banging pots and pans can deter them if a black bear seems hostile. Bear mace is a standard tool to ward off assertive bears, Moran said. She recommended that if a bear approaches, make yourself look more prominent, make lots of noise, and if children are nearby, keep them close to you.

Moran encourages Emerald Triangle residents to visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website Keep Me Wild to learn more about human-wildlife interactions.

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