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Living amongst the bears in Pine Mountain Club

Bears are not an uncommon sight for those living in the mountains, but what is it like to actually live amongst the bears?
Posted at 6:05 PM, Apr 09, 2024

PINE MOUNTAIN CLUB, Calif. (KERO) — Bears are not an uncommon sight for those living in the mountains, but what is it like to actually live amongst the bears?

  • As temperatures climb, some ‘residents’ in the Kern mountains are waking up from their winter slumber.
  • Pine Mountain Club has received national recognition for their bear break-ins. But for local residents, it's a way of life.
  • 23ABC reporter Avery Elowitt spoke to describe the unique challenges that come with living among these wild neighbors.
  • CDFW hosts a town hall meeting to discuss local bears on April 13 at 11 a.m.

    BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

People in Pine Mountain Club are no stranger to bears.
Patrice Stimpson is the patrol chief for the Pine Mountain Club Property Owners Association. She said, “It’s cool to see them, as long as they’re just going about their business being bears.”

But over the years, bears have been doing more than just walking by.

“We’ve had, let’s see… 18 break-ins just in March,” said Stimpson.

Despite the break-ins, she says that the black bears mean no harm.

“They really are big, big chickens,” said Stimpson. “The only time you’re really ever in any danger is if a bear is in your house, and you get between it and its exit point, and it will always go out the same way it came in.”

But these furry chickens have gotten braver when it comes to getting their paws on some grub.

Black bear in Pine Mountain Club sitting on bird seed. Photo courtesy Pine Mountain Club Patrol Dept.

Ian Sawrey, who has lived in Pine Mountain Club for over 15 years, said, “It was one of those things that we realized over time that the bears did not want to hurt you or hurt your family or something like that. Their goal was just to get food.”

As a retired police officer and military engineer, Sawrey said he is no expert in bears, but some of his skills have come into play in dealing with them.

“We basically built obstacles and defenses to stop the enemy from accessing certain places. Never thought I’d need those types of tools or thoughts in Pine Mountain Club,” said Sawrey.

And while cute, their hunger can be damaging.

“This is monetary damage now we’re talking about something that’s gonna cost you a lot of money to fix,” said Stimpson. “And that makes people mad and it makes them not so warm and fuzzy about the bears.”

Sawrey said, “One homeowner got over 30, 40 thousand dollars in damage from the bears having a rave or party in his house.”

From breaking into houses to opening cars, Tim Daly with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said the bears are determined to get food.

“In almost every case, the problem can be traced back to… there’s something that is attracting that wildlife to that community, whether it’s intentional or even unintentional,” Daly said.

While the majority of residents may not be feeding the bears, it only takes one.

“99 people out of 100 in Pine Mountain Club could be doing outstanding work making sure their home isn’t attracting wildlife, making sure their doors are secure, they’re nice strong wooden doors, etc.,” said Daly. “But if there’s one neighbor who doesn’t take it as seriously or even think it’s acceptable to feed wildlife, well that’s the weak link in that community.”

Intentional or not, the bears are getting smarter and ditching their natural instincts, passing on the knowledge to their cubs, and creating a pattern through the generations.

“Wildlife is meant to be in nature, finding its food on its own,” said Daly. “We are doing wildlife no favors… There are now young bears growing up thinking that their only source of food is that town or community down the hill.”

Things that used to work, like shoo-ing away the bears, is no longer a solution.

“Chasing them away, making loud noises and things like that only works for your particular homes,” said Sawrey. “That bear will then continue their bad behavior at another home and another home, and another home.”

Fish and Wildlife officials have coordinated a meeting for residents to talk about what comes next.

“We will communicate with folks and communities to make sure they’re getting all the tips and information that they need to make their communities safer,” Daly said.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife hosts a town hall meeting in the Clubhouse on April 13 and 11 a.m.

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