Local residents have been flooding social media with images of a wayward bear, or bears, that have been spotted visiting homes and digging through trash cans over the past few weeks.
The first bear reported on social media was spotted in Ridgecrest at the Walmart parking lot.
According to Jessica Weston of The Daily Independent, the male bear was seen the morning of May 13 digging through trash cans, and was later captured by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
No one was injured, and the bear, deemed safe by authorities, was captured and relocated.
Nikki Craig, a resident on Paramount Drive in Bear Valley Springs, was surprised to see a bear as she went outside to feed her animals early Friday morning.
"I was pretty close to it. It was up on my driveway and he came through the bushes," said Craig.
This isn't the first time Craig has seen the bear on her property.
"He's a lot bigger than the one that was in my kitchen ... about two years ago. It also got in my car, so they know how to open doors and windows," Craig said.
Ashlee Coddington, a resident of Aldante Court in Country Oaks off of Highline, reported seeing a bear that she estimated weighed approximately 500 pounds on her property and on the property of her father on Ricker Avenue.
"We have big dogs that are surrounding us, and we kept thinking the dogs were getting in our trash cans," Coddington said.
After a steel door was ripped off a storage container in her yard, Coddington said she realized it had to be a bear.
"We have a neighbor who reported a deer was killed by a bear right on her porch... We also have a bobcat that lives on the property and a mountain lion that lives at the end of Ricker Avenue," Coddington said.
Terri Nelson also reported hearing a crash the early morning of May 25 on Quail Springs Road.
"I jumped up and all the motion detector lights were on the property," said Nelson.
After her dog jumped under the bed, Nelson first thought her home was being burglarized.
Nelson and her husband, Jon, went out onto the second-story deck and saw a bear dragging their trash bags up the hill, looking for two bags of rotting apples that were discarded inside.
"He wasn't huge, but he wasn't small either," said Terri Nelson.
This is the second time in five years the Nelsons have seen bears on their property.
Abigail Gwinn, a wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in Kern County, said she has not personally received bear reports in Tehachapi this year.
"I did receive several last summer from throughout the Tehachapi area," Gwinn said. "I also just this week have started receiving reports from Hart Flat, and I was notified about two young bears on the Pacific Crest Trail near Manter Creek persistently going after backpacker’s food bags."
That section of the Pacific Crest Trail is one of the areas where bear-proof canisters are not required.
"That doesn’t mean that CDFW was not notified about recent bear activity in Tehachapi," Gwinn said. "It’s likely our wardens or our volunteers in the Natural Resources Volunteer Program were contacted directly by the public and responded."
Gwinn said CDFW monitors wildlife sightings and incidents throughout the state to track trends and seasonal variation, and identify hot spots of activity. It can be accessed directly at apps.wildlife.ca.gov/wir.
According to Gwinn, reports from last year indicate there are several bears in the area.
"I received multiple reports of a female bear with three cubs that will be yearlings this year, and reports of a few other individuals," Gwinn said. "Tehachapi is surrounded by bear habitat and is part of the linkage between the southern Sierra Nevada and the Transverse Ranges, which includes the Tehachapi Mountains. Likely there are several resident bears that were born in the general Tehachapi area, and bears dispersing from the surrounding Sequoia, Angeles, and Los Padres national forests looking to establish territories of their own."
Drought conditions are likely playing a major role in local bear behavior.
"We observed a similar increase in sightings of bears in populated areas during the previous drought throughout the state. Human behavior also has played a role," Gwinn said. "Many of the bear reports from last year in the Tehachapi area involved bears raiding chicken coops or getting into garbage. Bears that learn they can get food from areas with houses and people will continue to seek those areas out. We call this a habituated bear."
Details about what to do in case of black bear encounters can be found at the Keep Me Wild page: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild/Bear.