[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
September 19
1863 - Gen. Edward F. Beale loans money to A.A. Hudson and Oliver P. Robbins to erect toll house in Newhall Pass [story]

| Thursday, Jan 26, 2017
Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande

“I was somewhat delayed in getting to work because there was a dead bear on the side of the freeway,” my husband said about 30 years ago, just after we moved here from New York City. I think this is the sentence that allowed me to fall in love with California.

Let me back up a bit so you can better understand. I grew up in Paris; I lived in London, Amsterdam and New York City. We moved to the SCV after that, and at that time, our valley was covered with onion fields. I would often see riders on horseback, trotting down Lyons Avenue.

I felt very much out of place. The nature around me did not make sense, with green mountains in the winter and few flowers in the summer. Those mountains all around me were forbidding, having no roads (let alone houses), contrary to what you see in Europe. I was lost, depressed and did not understand any part of the place I was now living.

When my husband told me about a bear killed on the freeway, I came to understand that all of those forbidding mountains were also the home of wildlife that I was totally unaware of. Let’s face it: In large cities, the only encounters with wildlife are with pigeons, crows and sparrows. I remember seeing a rat once between the subway tracks, but that was rare.

Nothing prepared me to imagine that bears were living 10 minutes from my house. It was wonderful news. At the same time, it was a scary and incredible thought.

Shortly after that, I joined the docent program at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center and learned step-by-step about the fauna and flora of our valley, and the love story between California and me became a fait accompli.

Education was the only way for me to be able to understand and appreciate my situation from a more global perspective.

We have many visitors at the nature center who need to make the same discovery and understand more deeply about their environment. This is why nature education, generation after generation, is so important.

Last summer, a mother came to Placerita to take a walk on the trail with her young son, and she was surprised and scared to see a rattlesnake close to the building. Her son was walking ahead of her, so she had been taken by surprise and was shaken up for his safety. She came to the office wondering if we couldn’t “do something about those dangerous rattlesnakes so close to the public.”

I did not take her fear lightly. I remember only too well that if you have not been exposed to those sorts of situations, if you have grown up inside cities, it can be an unsettling experience.

Fear is often the first feeling for many of the inner-city children coming on a school trip to Placerita, and the only way to break this barrier is education.

Today I want to dispel a few myths about bears, hoping it can make your trip to the Sierras or even our local mountains a little less worrisome:

Myth No. 1: Bears cannot run downhill

How did that story start? Bears have shorter front legs than back legs, but that does not prevent them from running full-speed down hill, and they do that very well. They also can climb trees very fast. They are top predators on the food chain, and they can chase and attack in any kind of terrain. It does not have to be a flat plain or going uphill.

Myth No. 2:  A bear standing on its hind legs is going to attack.

Actually, it is the reverse. A bear ready to charge will be on all fours with its head down. It will get more balance and speed that way. A bear standing on its back legs does that to get a better view. Bears have very good eyesight; they see in color and have vision similar to human beings, although their vision at night is much better than ours. They have a reflective layer on the back of the eye called tapedum lucidum that reflects light.

You might have noticed a green reflection in the eyes of some animals (dogs, cats and many nocturnal animals) at night from your car lights shining in their eyes? That is coming from that special layer that improves their night vision.

Myth No. 3: Bears are carnivores.

Here it gets a little tricky. Bears are classified in the order carnivore, but they are really omnivores. They eat what the area has to offer – plants and animals – and meat is only a small part of their diet.

Some species of bears that grow in areas where meat is difficult to find will eat mostly berries and roots, and they won’t grow as big as the same species living in a different area where fish or meat is available. Interestingly enough, brown bears and grizzly bears are the same species; the grizzly bear (Ursus actos horribilis) is a subspecies of brown bear.

Myth No. 4: Relocating a bear that is causing problems around homes will solve the problem.

The problem is not the bear, but what attracted the bear in the first place. If food is available, another bear will move in. Taking care never to leave garbage available for the bear to find food can be done, but what do you do if you have a lot of fruit trees that the bear is coming to eat? Solutions are not always easy, so being aware is important.

Myth No. 5: If you are attacked, play dead.

Only if a mother bear is defending her cubs – so that is pretty rare. The first thing to do is to prevent being attacked at all. The way to do that is to speak loudly on the trail, even if you are alone. Make noise. Let the bear know you are coming. Stamp your feet or sing if you want to.

Perhaps this is a good time to remind you again that it is not a good idea to hike alone, just in case you might twist your ankle?

Bears do not want an encounter with you. They will retreat if they hear you coming. If both of you are taken by surprise and find each other face-to-face, scream, look big, open your jacket – but do not run, because that looks just like their normal prey, and you might become one.

There are many human-bear encounters every year but very few attacks. However, fight if attacked. Punch with your fists and hit the bear with rocks and branches. Fight for your life.

A predatory bear stalks his prey and attacks from behind. His ears are laid back, his head is down, and the intense focus is on the prey. Studying this behavior might help you to better understand the situation – but I sure hope it does not come to that.

All grizzlies were killed in California. The only place we can still find one is on our flag, sadly enough.

But we do have black bears (they can be brown and beige, too). It is a miracle for me even to think about that fact in such a densely populated state as California.

Do all that is in your power to make sure they have a chance to survive so that our grandchildren will be able to say the same thing. Treasure deep in your heart the fact that you grew up with bears in the mountains around the SCV. It is an incredible concept for most people who grew up in cities, and Santa Clarita has become a good-size city through the years.

Bear sightings are not rare. They are here: scats are found on the trail, bear tracks are seen clearly in the mud after the rain of these last few weeks, and from time to time, a dark shadow is seen through the trees. We can live side by side. Let’s respect each other.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


  1. Steve says:

    Good article. I have backpacked all over the world and had many encounters with black, grizzly and sloth bears. Never been fearful or threatened. One grizzly sow made her displeasure with my intrusion into her dining room known other great effect but it was for show, She did not want to eat me, just get me to leave, I did! Thanks for the article.

  2. jim says:

    I hope lots of folks read your article. Wild bears around here are actually difficult to find (unless you are a trained tracker). Most black bear/human interactions are accidental. When you are in their normal territory black bears are not likely to attack unless as you noted, it’s a mother bear who believes her nearby cubs are at risk. Otherwise, unless you are hunting them, (and even then) you will rarely encounter them. In their range far away from human habitation, bear tracks, scat and other evidence (remains) can easily be found. Wild bears will usually move away from human noise and are very good at doing that quietly.

    But that’s from my experience hunting deer in season years ago in the local and Sierra Nevada mountains.

    When bears have learned (usually due to a lack of other resources) to hunt and feed in human occupied areas it is a different thing entirely.
    “Humanized” bears can behave very differently from wild bears. They become used to foraging in peoples trash cans and backyards – including pets (although not as much as coyotes). And once adapted to it, they will not give up their new “range” easily. The National Parks have much experience with this, especially in Yosemite and Yellowstone. The Park personnel relocate those bears as far away as possible, although like people they often return to where the most easily accessible food can be found.

    One minor note about your article: California native Grizzly (brown) bears were hunted to extinction at the beginning of the last century (and as legend has it, the last one was killed not far from the SCV). Other brown bears are still in the wild in the Northwest states and of course, Alaska.

    One last caveat; if you are hiking away from human habitation (aka miles away), just assume that any local bears know exactly where you are at all times. I’ve doubled back on my trail when hunting and found bear tracks following or crossing it less than a half hour after I’d passed.

    And I never saw those bears.

  3. Rande Gallant says:

    Thank you for the article.
    Here’s another: Bears hibernate for the winter – NO, THEY DO NOT!
    I used to hear that a lot. They just sleep. The difference is that if you push a hibernating animal around, it keeps hibernating. If you push a sleeping bear around, you’re going to have a really bad day.

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Saturday, Sep 16, 2017
While not perfect, SB 54 kept intact our ability to maintain partnerships with federal law enforcement officials who help us in the fight against gangs, drugs and human trafficking. It also retains the controlled access that the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement has to our jails.
Thursday, Sep 7, 2017
Local residents have the right to record things their congressional leaders and legislative staff members say to residents of the 25th District and any of Rep. Knight's town hall meetings and legislative decisions.
Tuesday, Sep 5, 2017
Speaking with one of our Santa Clarita sheriff’s deputies recently, he was telling me about the hardest part of his job.
Friday, Sep 1, 2017
Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth invites residents to join him for the Santa Clara River Rally cleanup on Saturday, September 23.
Thursday, Aug 24, 2017
McConnell’s herd was among the Republicans who have been yelling about repealing an replacing Obamacare for over seven years, and now he says Trump is expecting a change too soon?
Thursday, Aug 24, 2017
I started by asking my grandchildren what color they would use to draw a fox. I handed them a box of crayons. The situation became impossible when both started fighting over the red crayon.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
Six Flags Magic Mountain's biggest season of Fright Fest, presented by Snickers, reopened Saturday.
Magic Mountain Fright Fest Back, Bigger Than Ever
Child pornography resulted in a six-month jail sentence for a Santa Clarita man Monday, officials said.
Santa Clarita Man Suspected of Child Pornography Pleads No Contest
California Credit Union is inviting all Los Angeles County teachers who have a great class project idea to apply for a credit union grant through its bi-annual Teacher Grant Program.
CCU’s Fall Teacher Grant Applications Underway
California's housing market defied gravity as existing home sales and median home price registered increases on both a monthly and an annual basis in August, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) said Monday.
State Sees Increase in Housing Market
1863 - Gen. Edward F. Beale loans money to A.A. Hudson and Oliver P. Robbins to erect toll house in Newhall Pass [story]
California State University, Northridge students and faculty have joined forces with Bet Tzedek to expand legal aid for undocumented parents of CSUN students.
CSUN, Bet Tzedek Expand Legal Aid for Students’ Undocumented Parents
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, the family of a missing 16 year old Hart High student is asking the community for help in locating him. Plus, dust off your resumes: COC is hosting its Fall semester Job & Career Fair soon. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Monday, September 18, 2017
The Governing Board of the Saugus Union School District is extending the deadline to apply for the 7-11 Advisory Committee through Thursday, September 21 at 4 p.m.
Saugus School District Extends Deadline to Apply for Surplus Committee
After letting an early two-set lead slip away, the TMU Mustangs volleyball team rallied from behind to secure a 3-2 win over the San Diego Christian Hawks Saturday night.
Mustangs Volleyball Team Rallies to Beat San Diego Christian 3-2
The Master's University and Bethesda University battled 110 minutes to a scoreless draw in double-overtime Saturday afternoon on Reese Field.
TMU, Bethesda Men’s Soccer Teams Battle to 0-0 Draw in Double Overtime
The TMU Mustangs men's and women's cross-country teams raced in the open division of UC Riverside’s event Saturday.
TMU Cross Country Impresses at UC Riverside Invitational
The TMU Mustangs volleyball team rallied to win sets four and five against Arizona Christian Friday, taking the match 3-2 on Bross Court.
TMU Volleyball Edges Arizona Christian 3-2
The Gentle Barn is celebrating its 18th year of spreading compassion and hope for animals around the world from its current locations in Santa Clarita, California, Knoxville, Tennessee and the newest animal sanctuary set to open September 24 near St. Louis.
Gentle Barn Animal Rescue Sanctuary Turns 18
“Wildwood Canyon: The Resilience of Nature,” a photography exhibit by artist Kristina Jacob, will be on display at the Jo Anne Darcy Library in Canyon Country from September 26 through January 24.
Sept. 26: Wildwood Canyon Photo Exhibit at Darcy Library
October is National Arts and Humanities Month and to celebrate the city of Santa Clarita will host ARTober during the month.
October is ‘Artober’ in Santa Clarita
College of the Canyons will host the one-day conference, “It’s Still Happening Right Here! Human Trafficking,” on Friday, Sept. 22 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Sept. 22: COC Hosts Human Trafficking Conference
College of the Canyons hosted the 2017 California Community College Athletic Association Southern California Preview on Friday, attracting a field of more than 500 cross-country runners to the course at Central Park in Santa Clarita.
Canyons Women Take Second at CCCAA SoCal Preview
The Dodgers enter the final leg of their 10-game road trip (4-2) tonight with the first of four against the Philadelphia Phillies, with Clayton Kershaw on the mound.
Dodgers and Kershaw Open 4-Game Stand in Philadelphia
Family members report they have found Elias Ortiz, a 16-year-old Newhall resident who had been missing since Saturday night.
Newhall Teen Missing Since Saturday Found
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending that six of 27 national monuments under review by the Trump administration be reduced in size, with changes to several others proposed, but the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is not on Zinke's shrink list.
San Gabriel National Monument Not on Interior Secretary’s Shrink List
The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce will move from its present location at City Hall to new office space at 28494 Westinghouse Place, Suite 114, Valencia 91355, on October 12.
October 12: SCV Chamber Moves to New Office
The Modesto Nuts pulled away late and swept the California League Championship Series with an 8-1 victory over the JetHawks in Game 3 on Friday night at John Thurman Field, ending the season for the Lancaster team.
JetHawks Swept in CLCS to End 2017 Season
New stencils on Santa Clarita crosswalks are part of the city's 'Heads Up' pedestrian safety program.
‘Heads Up’ Crosswalk Stencils Boost Santa Clarita’s Pedestrian Safety Effort
Senate Constitutional Amendment 12, or SCA-12, authored by Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Los Angeles) with Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) the principal co-author, has passed by the State Senate on a bipartisan vote of 27-7.
Mendoza-Wilk Supervisors Expansion Bill Clears State Senate
The California Highway Patrol's Newhall station screened 375 vehicles in a DUI checkpoint in Stevenson Ranch Friday night but made no arrests.
CHP Screens 375 Vehicles in Stevenson Ranch DUI Checkpoint
A man died of a suspected heroin overdose in the 17000 block of Sierra Highway in Canyon Country late Friday night, according to SCV Sheriff's Station officials.
Canyon Country Man Dead of Suspected Heroin Overdose
1962 - Articles of incorporation filed for Golden State Memorial Hospital on Lyons Avenue [story]
1879 - First official Newhall School building erected near Walnut & Ninth streets [story]
While not perfect, SB 54 kept intact our ability to maintain partnerships with federal law enforcement officials who help us in the fight against gangs, drugs and human trafficking. It also retains the controlled access that the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement has to our jails.
Changes to ‘Sanctuary’ Bill Made it Better | Commentary by Sheriff Jim McDonnell
In the conceptual planning stages for decades, the extension of Lyons Avenue to Dockweiler Drive could finally be shifting out of neutral.
Plans Are Out for Lyons Extension to Dockweiler
1872 - Sulphur Springs School District established by Mitchells and Langs [story]
Jack Shine, founder and president of American Beauty Homes and a key figure in the development of affordable housing for veterans in the Santa Clarita Valley, died Thursday. He was 82.
SCV Home Builder, Philanthropist Jack Shine Dies at 82
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today reiterated his call for consumers to take action to protect their identities in light of the recent Equifax data breach, and provided links to do so online.
AG Urges Consumers to Take Action After Equifax Data Breach
The Santa Clarita City Council's Public Safety Committee will meet at City Hall to review preliminary plans for the new Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station on Tuesday, September 19 starting at 3 p.m.
September 19: City Public Safety Officials Review Plans for New Sheriff’s Station
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, see the Grand Finale of NASA's Cassini mission. Plus, Fair Oaks Community Elementary students not only got a "bag of books" on Friday, they also got to see their principal and vice principal get a shaving cream pie in their face. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Friday, September 15, 2017