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TOILETRIES, FOOD LEAD TO BEAR VISITS TAKE CARE, CAMPERS WARNED.

Byline: Susan Abram Staff Writer

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST - Campers planning to venture into forests in the next few weeks are being warned of escalating encounters with black bears, according to rangers in the Angeles National Forest.

Rangers say bears are more likely to come into campsites these days to forage for food and fatten up on high calories before they hibernate for the winter.

``Bears are irresistibly attracted to human food,'' said Jody Noiron, Angeles National Forest supervisor. ``It's simply wrong to tempt them. People coming to the forest to picnic or camp need to store their food and garbage in sealable, odor-proof containers - for the good of the bears and for their own protection.''

Lorna Bernard, spokeswoman for the state Department of Fish and Game, said bears might also want to taste some things that people would not eat.

``If they think something might be interesting, they'll want it - such as suntan lotion or toiletries. Those are the kind of things that attract bears,'' in addition to human food, she warned.

So far this year, the state Department of Fish and Game has reported two attacks - one in the Chilao area in the Angeles National Forest, and one near Mammoth Lakes.

Two bears also have been seen this year in the Conejo Valley area. The second one - a 250-pound California black bear - wandered into a Thousand Oaks family's garage in August.

Since 1980, there have been 13 attacks on people by California black bears, according to Bernard. Black bears are not typically aggressive, and most of their encounters with humans are over food and other scented items, she said.

Campers and visitors are being advised to report any bear problems to the camp host or ranger, Noiron said. In some areas, campsites will be closed if a pattern of bear visits is established by too many careless campers, rangers said.

``If there's a campground that people continue to be sloppy at, bears become trained,'' Bernard said.

In addition, campers should use the bear-proof garbage bins located in most of the areas of the Angeles National Forest. Bear-proof containers also are available at sporting-goods stores. If such bins are not available, rangers recommend that food and other scented items be double-bagged and tightly closed in heavy garbage bags from which no bear-attracting odor escapes. Ice chests should also be hidden because some bears have learned to recognize them as food containers.

``Once people have an understanding of a bear's indiscriminate taste for anything that smells, they're a lot more careful in bear habitat,'' said Doug Updike, senior wildlife biologist and coordinator of the black bear program from the Fish and Game Department.

Biologists who have performed necropsies on black bears have found whole cantaloupes, an entire yellow jackets nest, leather work gloves, pieces of a garden hose and kitchen sponges in the dead animals' stomachs.

``The lesson for humans is that if you can think like a hungry bear, you'll do a better job of avoiding one,'' Updike said.

Susan Abram, (661) 257-5257

susan.abram(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 14, 2004
Words:508
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