A black bear living in the Santa Monica Mountains — recently tagged and given the nickname BB-12 — apparently likes to relax the same way that a lot of Southern Californians do: with a leisurely stroll on the beach.
BB-12’s footprints have been discovered by California State Park lifeguards on beaches in the Malibu area, according to National Park Service officials. The young male bear is believed to have taken at least two separate nighttime strolls, the most recent occurring near Leo Carillo State Beach.
It is highly unusual for bears to wander onto the beach, park officials said.
“We don’t see bears around here,” said Ana Beatriz Cholo, spokesperson for the National Park Service. “That’s just not their area.”
But officials said the 3- or 4-year-old bear has been on the move in recent weeks, traveling across the mountains and toward the coast, and has most recently headed north from the Santa Monica Mountains toward Thousand Oaks, making the dangerous trip across the 101 and 118 freeways in late May.
“He hung around for a few weeks and then he started making his way up north,” Cholo said.
The bear, estimated to be about 210 pounds when he was first tagged by biologists with the National Park Service on April 23, is the first bear captured and tagged in the Santa Monica Mountains.
According to the National Park Service, the nearest population of black bears lives in the Santa Susana Mountains north of the 118 freeway and, although there have been previous bear sightings in the Santa Monica Mountains in the past, there is no evidence of a population there since the 1800s.
But officials believe BB-12 has been in the Santa Monica Mountains for almost two years.
Now, Cholo said, BB-12 has even made an appearance in social media apps like Nextdoor, where residents from Newbury Park have reported sightings of the black bear.
Jeff Sikich, biologist with the park service, said BB-12 visited the far western end of Malibu, near Point Mugu Beach, on the night of April 30.
Then on May 6, the bear returned to the coast, this time near Leo Carrillo State Beach.
Since then, the bear appears to be heading north, Sikich said.
On May 30, the GPS tracker that was attached to the bear signaled that he had crossed the 101 freeway sometime between midnight and 2 a.m. on May 30. Officials are not sure exactly where he crossed the freeway, but believe it was somewhere between Borchard Road and Rancho Conejo Boulevard, Sikich said.
The following day, his GPS collar signaled that he crossed State Road 23.
Later that night, BB-12 appeared to continue his trek north, crossing the 118 freeway on May 31 between 10 p.m. and midnight.
Bears in the region have been known to try to cross Southern California’s freeways in the past, often with deadly results. In 2014, a black bear was killed trying to cross the 101 freeway.
“It’s pretty extraordinary that this bear safely crossed this busy freeway,” Cholo said.
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