Rural residents and farmers are keeping an eye out for reports of a bear seen wandering near orchards and canals off Tracy Boulevard north of Tracy earlier this week.
There have been several sightings of the bear near Union Island off Tracy Boulevard and Clifton Court Road about 5½ miles north of Tracy on Sunday and Monday. The latest sighting was near the Kings Crown Packing, 11605 Clifton Court Rd.
An early Thursday morning sighting was posted to social media and had the bear spotted near the Tracy Wildlife Association off Finck Road, about three miles from the city limits.
Ken Paglia, a public information officer for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said this time of year they begin to see wildlife in urban areas.
“People always ask what would prompt a bear to find its way or end up somewhere like Tracy. What scientists are saying is, this is just the time of year where we start to see wildlife kind of pop up in populated areas. For bears it’s usually the young males that are looking for new territory,” Paglia said. “This is just the time of year where if a young bear is still with its mother the mom will push it out and it will have to start to make its way in the world.”
Over the weekend, pictures of what appears to be a bear walking near a canal sprang up on social media with warnings of the bear in the area.
Paglia said it wasn’t incredibly rare for the bear sighting.
“It always happens a few times a year scattered throughout this area,” Pagila said.
He said the bear’s arrival could possibly be tied to the drought.
“We won’t really know the full impact of the drought until later this summer or fall but it’s possible that the combination of the wildfires from the past couple of years and then drier conditions could be eliminating the bear’s natural food resources a little bit which would cause it to expand its search,” Paglia said. “We don’t know why the bear popped up outside of Tracy, but the answer is probably one of those two. It’s probably: A, this is just that time of year where we start to see that sort of thing; and B, it might be connected to the drought conditions but it’s hard to say for sure.”
Paglia said the Fish and Wildlife Department’s scientists haven’t commented on the pictures but, given the time of year, they believe it is a young, male black bear.
He said the bear most likely came from the mountains just west of Vacaville. Other sightings reported in the media had the bear spotted in Brentwood and Discovery Bay as it moved south toward Tracy.
Anyone seeing the bear is advised to steer clear of it.
“Keep your distance, respect the animal, give it space, and the second part we say is call local law enforcement,” Paglia said.
If the bear sighting takes place in a populated area, people can call 9-1-1. However, if the sighting is an isolated rural area, they can call a non-emergency number.
“But the reason why we say call local law enforcement first, is they are in the best position to respond quickly and make sure there isn’t a public safety issue,” Paglia said. “We have open lines of communication with local law enforcement, especially in times like this where the bear was seen almost a week ago,” Paglia said. “They will contact us; they will contact local animal control, and we’ll all work together to manage whatever is going on.”
Paglia said there is a Fish and Wildlife officer who normally covers that area and a biologist who deals with bears has visited the area of the sightings to coordinate in case they do need a larger response from Fish and Wildlife, but other than that there is no active search for the bear.
A public information officer from the San Joaquin County Sheriff Office said deputies have not been sent for a bear sighting in the north Tracy area.
The last time a bear was known to be passing through the Tracy area was about 6 years ago. In March of 2015, a female black bear wandered through north Tracy for 3 days eluding police until it was found hiding in a tree at the corner of Whittier and Bessie avenues. The bear was tranquilized and safely released back into the wild into an undisclosed location.
Paglia said people want to know what will happen if they do find the bear.
“Our approach is finding that balance between protecting the bear and keeping public safety the top priority. It just does depend on the situation. If the bear pops up in town and gets caught in a tree, our preferred outcome is if we can shoo it away and harass it to go back to its own habitat without having to intervene too much,” Paglia said. “But then, if there is a situation where there is a public safety issue, then we will consider other approaches like darting the bear and transporting it to suitable habitat. But our goal is the least amount of intervention while keeping public safety the top priority.”
He said the number one thing bears are looking for is food and reminded residents the best way to keep a bear off the property is remove attractants.
“Seal up your garbage, don’t leave pet food outside. If you remove all attractants, you won’t give a bear a reason to come sniffing around,” Paglia said.
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