Tuesday, May 7, 2013 • Almanor West has bear tales to share

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, May 7, 2013, edition of the Lassen County Times.

This brown bear cub has been racking up adventures throughout the Lake Almanor West housing development since late March. Here he went through a series of gymnastics to reach and devour the sunflower seeds in the Fordings’ bird feeder. Photo by Dick Fording

While the well-known refrain “Who’s been sleeping in my bed?” is a familiar line from the popular children’s storybook “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” for some Lake Almanor West residents this story is no fairy tale.

Since the end of March, a small brown bear cub, approximately 2 years of age and 150 pounds, has been making a bit of its own history in the Lake Almanor housing development. Residents Dick Fording and Lori and Hal Sinclair have tales of their own to tell.

“This little yearling guy/gal has been seen in Almanor West for around three weeks now and sadly (for the bear) is unafraid of people or dogs and is seemingly non-aggressive,” Fording said.

Fording, who is a longtime board member on the California Fish and Game Commission said if the cub becomes a “problem bear, it will be euthanized, as it is no longer the department’s policy to relocate bears.”

“I first encountered the bear last Tuesday when it strolled across my lakeside deck,” said Fording.

“I managed to shoo it off and down the stairs but it’d smelled the sunflower seeds in my bird feeder and just climbed a tree next to the deck, climbed across to the deckand sat down on a deck post and demolished my hanging feeder.

“It lapped the house several times after it left the feeder, stopping to stretch on a tree.

“Yesterday, it found an open door at a neighbor’s house andguess who moved in?” Fording asked.

He also said, “If this yearling stays in the development it’s doomed. Not all people will be careful with food sources and it’s too habituated to the development already — really sad for such a beautiful bear.”

Fording said the bear was seen later in the day heading south in the development toward the Almanor West boat launch ramp.

This bear cub spent a considerable amount of time roaming around the Fording residence at Almanor West. Dick Fording reports that at one point he and the cub were nose-to-nose on their respective sides of the sliding glass door. Photo by Dick Fording

The Sinclairs’ story
The Sinclairs’ bear tale began when they returned home after running a few errands April 9.

“We were gone for a short while and had left our laundry room door ajar so our dogs could cross our enclosed deck to access their dog yard.

“When we come home we enter the house the same way and our dogs always run up to greet us on the side deck,” Lori Sinclair said.

She said the dogs didn’t come to greet her and her husband, Hal; instead they could hear the dogs barking inside the house.

“We came in the side door to the laundry room. It was a disaster, all torn up. The dogs were barking like crazy and as I turned the corner into the kitchen I said, ‘Oh, Hal — there’s a bear in the house!’”

She said after sighting the bear in the middle of their kitchen she promptly dropped her purse and took their shaking dogs to the bedroom.

“Upon seeing us the bear jumped up on the counter and kitchen sink. We stayed back and out of the kitchen,” she said.

After collecting themselves, Sinclair said she moved to the side of the kitchen and began making “shooing” sounds.

“He just jumped down from the counter and ambled past us and out the door as calm as you please. He didn’t appear bothered by us or the dogs,” she added.

A good stretch is what any bear deserves after the laborious activity of demolishing a bird feeder and feasting on sunflower seeds. Photo by Dick Fording

Once the bear left, the Sinclairs surveyed the scene and found that the bear had opened the cupboard in front of the sink and pulled out the garbage container.

Proof was present that the cub had also been on the counter previously, as all of Hal Sinclair’s prescription medications had been consumed.

“We called Fish and Wildlife and Warden Byron Hernandez arrived about 40 minutes later.

“He walked up to the bear in our front yard and he also noticed that the bear was not intimidated by humans,” Sinclair said.

She said the warden guessed the bear was approximately 2 years old and weighed about 150 pounds.

When she expressed her concern to Hernandez about the bear eating the medication he said, “Bears eat a lot of garbage and can take a lot in without being harmed.”

The Sinclairs said they haven’t seen the bear for more than a week now but did say the UPS driver had reported seeing the bear.

“I really hope he leaves the area so they don’t have to relocate or destroy him,” Lori said.

The story continues
“After leaving our place, having previously ransacked Lori’s place, it ended up on Almanor West Drive a quarter mile south of us,” said Fording.

“It entered a garage and partially chewed up a deer mount in progress — the owner is a taxidermist — then wandered upstairs to the bedroom above and relaxed on the bed,” Fording said.

The incident was reported and California Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens were called.

“They shot the bear with a ‘beanbag,’ running it off. They then set up a trap at the location hoping to trap the yearling and relocate it.

“Terri Weist, the mammal biologist for Fish and Wildlife, stopped by and filled me in April 11.

“The bear is so habituated to humans her concern is relocating it will only work until it finds humans again, as is often the case. Time will tell!” Fording said.