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When bears come to call

Residents of Bradbury and Altadena take the hungry visitors in stride. The real menace is those pesky TV helicopters.

May 16, 2007|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

Goldilocks seemed to be the only thing missing Tuesday in the San Gabriel Valley's latest installment of Bear Country Jamboree.

There was adorable Baby Bear, lost in a verdant Bradbury avocado grove, crying for its mother.

Down the street, probably looking for porridge, was Mama Bear, rummaging through the upscale neighborhood's trashcans.

A few miles away, there was Papa Bear, trying to bring home the bacon from the hillsides of Altadena.

The animals, visiting from the nearby Angeles National Forest, attracted crowds of onlookers after their pictures flashed on television to prove the whole thing wasn't just a fairy tale.

"I think everybody in Duarte is over here looking for them," said Bradbury resident Kathleen Meade, who, like her neighbors, was trying to shoo away the pesky intruders.

Not the bears. The hovering TV helicopters. "They come down so low and they're so noisy," Meade said.

"The bears aren't bothering anything or anybody. They get a little fruit off the trees. These we've seen three or four days now. I think they come down from the foothills looking for food, not water," said Meade, who has lived nearly half a century on Royal Oaks Drive. "They should take scrap food from the restaurants up there for them. They throw away enough food to cover the whole mountainside."

Next-door neighbor Robert Penney said a different bear entered his home Friday night, strolling through an open garage door and into a nearby bathroom.

"He was drinking out of the toilet. I told him to get the hell out of there and he took off. He ran right by me. I could have petted him he was so close. He was a tagged bear, not as big as the one today. But he definitely wasn't a cub," said Penney, a retired manufacturer who has lived 47 years on a 5-acre parcel.

Black bear sightings are common in Bradbury, a 2-square-mile community of 325 homes near the 210 and 605 freeway interchange.

Three years ago, Penney encountered a bear in his driveway. On Sunday, he caught a bear sucking water out of an outdoor water faucet. Another time he watched a bear "sample each sprinkler like it was a different flavor."

A friend down the street caught a bear in his kitchen, Penney said. "It came through a Dutch door, opened the refrigerator and was standing there having a gourmet meal," he said.

"With only 3 inches of rain this year," Penney added, "the streams are dry. There are no berries, no nothing."

It was probably no coincidence that Tuesday was the day Bradbury residents put out their trash for pickup.

Wildlife officers and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies were standing by in case the bears became aggressive. But "there were no apparent problems. The bears weren't challenging anyone," said Sheriff's Lt. Stacy Lee.

The Altadena bear was seen wandering behind homes next to the Arroyo Seco, just east of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It finally climbed a tree off Crestford Drive and fell asleep in branches that hang over the side of the canyon. State Fish and Game officers were standing by, said Sheriff's Lt. Greg Sisneros.

Authorities said there are no plans to destroy the bears. They hope all live happily ever after.

bob.pool@latimes.com

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