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Trash-loving bears find Altadena suits their taste

A mother bear eats leftover birthday cake before she and her two cubs climb an oak tree for an afternoon nap. Wildlife officials observe the creatures but opt not to move them or tranquilize them.

May 04, 2012|By Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times
  • A mother bear and her two cubs settle down in a tree above a home in Altadena.
A mother bear and her two cubs settle down in a tree above a home in Altadena. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)

Keith Miller got a beast of a wake-up call Thursday morning.

The 71-year-old had just stepped outside his Altadena home to get the newspaper when he saw "this huge bear, looking like a Volkswagen, staring at me," Miller said. "It ran one way and I ran the other."

Before Miller made it back inside, he turned to see where the bear — which had been snacking on leftover birthday cake tossed in a garbage can — was headed. That's when he saw two cubs scamper up an oak tree in his frontyard. After hissing at Miller, the mother followed her offspring up the tree.

PHOTOS: Mother bear, cubs up a tree

As Miller and his wife, Judy, 73, began calling neighbors, the ursines climbed higher and higher in the branches. Eventually, the three settled down for a nap.

They periodically changed trees throughout the day, using the Millers' roof to climb back and forth between the two oaks. Keith Miller said it was a little unsettling, but his wife said the animals looked amused.

"The bear seems to be having a nice time," Judy Miller said.

Sheriff's deputies and a warden from California Department of Fish and Game arrived soon after the bears were spotted. Officials said they were there to keep an eye on the situation and had no plans to tranquilize or otherwise interfere with the creatures.

Worried that the noise of news helicopters and other onlookers would spook the bears, officials blocked off the area and asked residents to stay inside.

"We don't want to get between Mom and her babies," said Sgt. Debra Herman of theLos Angeles County Sheriff's DepartmentAltadena station.

Andrew Hughan, Fish and Game spokesman, said the adult bear was not the same meatball-eating animal that roamed Glendale in April.

"It's not the Glen Bearian," he said — using the bear's Twitter handle.

About sunset, authorities said, the bears climbed down from the tree and headed home.

The Millers said deer, rattlesnakes and the occasional coyote weren't uncommon in the neighborhood they have called home since 1985. Some neighbors have spotted bears in the past, they said, but nothing like this.

"We must have fabulous trash," Judy Miller said.

PHOTOS: Mother bear, cubs up a tree

kate.mather@latimes.com

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