The Malibu Black bear. Photo via Zach Behrens, Santa Monica Mountains and Mediterranean Coast Network. National Park Service
The Malibu Black Bear. Photo via Zach Behrens, Santa Monica Mountains and Mediterranean Coast Network, National Park Service.

A black bear was recently spotted in Malibu Creek State Park, and National Park Service officials said Thursday researchers are trying to determine how the bear managed to make its way south of the Ventura (101) Freeway.

The bear was caught by two camera traps in the park on July 26. NPS officials said it is rare to find a bear in the area, since bears generally reside to the north in the Santa Susana and San Gabriel Mountains.

According to the National Park Service, there hasn’t been a regular population of bears in the Santa Monica Mountains since the 1800s, although there are occasional sightings, including a bear that was killed in 2014 on a 101 Freeway off ramp in Westlake Village.

“Malibu Creek State Park is over 8,000 acres of open space and is connected to a much larger network of habitat,” according to Craig Sap, district superintendent for the Angeles District of California State Parks. “If this bear decides to stay, let’s see what we can do to co-exist with it.”

The Malibu Black Bear. Photo via Zach Behrens, Santa Monica Mountains and Mediterranean Coast Network, National Park Service.

National Park Service researchers plan to check cameras in the Liberty Canyon area to see if the bear may have crossed the freeway there. That area in Agoura Hills is being examined as the site of a proposed freeway crossing bridge for wildlife.

Wildlife experts say the crossing is essential to expanding the area’s habitat, noting that the mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains has the lowest known genetic diversity in the West. Only one mountain lion is known to have successfully crossed into the mountains from the north in the last 14 years.

“The ecological health of the Santa Monica Mountains depends in part on our ability to maintain natural connections with areas north of the freeway,” said David Szymanski, NPS superintendent for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

–City News Service 

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