Researchers, beachgoers report rare sightings of black bear on Malibu coastline

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 12:15 PM CDT
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MALIBU, Calif. (KCAL/KCBS) - Researchers in Malibu, California have been tracking a black bear that has been spotted roaming the coast after they captured it and fitted it with a GPS device.

It’s rare to see a black bear in the area, so researchers believe it is the same bear that has been seen roaming the area for at least two years.

Historically, black bears aren’t found anywhere near Malibu. The closest population is in the Santa Susana mountains about 40 miles away.

“That’s insane. That’s crazy,” beachgoer Bella Finn said.

Many other beachgoers have shared Finn’s reaction upon hearing that a black bear has been taking midnight strolls along Malibu’s coastline.

“I feel like I’d like to see it, but I also hope I don’t,” another beachgoer, Mike Denslow said.

Lifeguards recently discovered and photographed paw prints near Leo Carrillo State Beach.

It is evidence, biologists say, that a bear BB-12, who they captured and collared back in April, has been to the seaside at least twice, a rarity that has even the experts tickled.

“I think, I think our biologists are getting a kick out of this. I mean, you know, they’re scientists first, of course,” Ana Beatriz Cholo, with the National Parks Service, said. “And this is, you know, this is serious stuff. But of course, it’s really cool, because, like I said, we don’t have a resident bear population here.”

In fact, BB-12 is thought to be the first and only resident bear in the Santa Monica mountains since scientists have been tracking mountain lions there for 20 years.

Cholo said BB-12 is about 3 to 4 years old, 210 pounds and apparently, from what their GPS tracking is recording, they’re a wandering spirit.

“So, it had to cross the 101 freeway, the 118, and the 23,” Cholo said.

The bear would then have crossed the Pacific Coast Highway as well to get to shore. Something their GPS tracking can’t tell them is if the bear enjoyed an ocean dip while on the coast.

“I don’t know if he, if he actually went into the water,” she said. “But that’s a great question, and I would love to know if he decided to check out the waves.”

Cholo said the last GPS hits indicate BB-12 has headed back toward the Santa Susana mountains, but if he hits the beach again, many say they’ll be happy to share the sand.

“Oh, I would welcome a bear,” beachgoer April Thayer said. “If he surfs, of course, I would welcome him.”

Wildlife officials said that anyone who encounters a black bear should avoid eye contact and slowly back away, but do not run.

It’s uncommon for black bears to attack people, but if one does, it is imperative to fight back.