Rare black bear sightings caught on camera in North San Diego County mountains

Several Palomar Mountain residents have reported separate sightings of what officials believe is the same black bear sojourning the area

NBC Universal, Inc.

Multiple residents atop Palomar Mountain have taken to social media over the past several weeks sharing images and videos of a California black bear milling about a North San Diego County community in the Cleveland National Forest.

Experts told NBC 7 while the black bear can be seen across the state, it is not an oft-seen sight in San Diego County and to have one in our backyards is something that happens maybe once every decade.

"It's not unheard of but definitely something that we're all a little surprised by," shared Dr. Jon Enyart, DVM, the senior director of San Diego Humane Society’s Project Wildlife. "The only bears we tend to see are the ones we have In our facility in Ramona that come from outside the county."

A bear was captured in one video from late May sniffing around the porch of a home about two miles southwest of the renowned Palomar Observatory before it was seen in a second video running back into the nearby wooded area.

Another video captured Sunday showed a similar size bear trekking north on Canfield Road, near the Palomar Mountain General Store.

It is likely that the same bear is being spotted in various nearby areas, California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) spokesperson Tim Daly confirmed with NBC 7, leading them to refer to this as a confirmed sighting.

Wildlife experts with the agency were also able to determine from video they received of the bear that it is not collared, therefore, they are not able to track its history or future movements, Daly noted.

"The reality is it's still their natural habitat," Enyart added. "They're not going outside of what would be considered appropriate territory for them. It's just unusual."

Daly says nothing that has been reported indicates any cause for concern and added CDFW is not sending anyone to the area to monitor the animal.

The black bear is the only species of bear remaining in California and Nevada, according to California State Parks, after grizzlies went extinct from overhunting. The common name “black bear” is misleading, as California black bears may be black, brown, cinnamon, even blonde.

There are an estimated 25,000 to 35,000 black bears in California, according to CDFW. Adult females range between 100-300 lbs., with adult males weighing anywhere between 150 and 500 lbs.

Los Angeles County has also had an increase in black bear sightings, leading local leaders to take action to keep everyone safe, NBC 7's sister station NBCLA reported.

LA County Board of Supervisors approved a plan Tuesday to provide funding for specialists with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a management plan that will help wild animals safely co-exist with humans. 

“What these specialists do is really do the research, following the DNA which bears are where as well as tracking them as much as possible and trying to find their numbers and what their habits are and how they’re changing and their population changes over time,” said Lowe.

LA County also plans to provide education and outreach to the Foothill neighborhoods on this growing problem. Sierra Madre is urging everyone to be proactive, telling them to not leave out any food, closing all windows and doors, and using bear- resistant trash cans with locking lids that are free to Sierra Madre residents.

Bear experts say it is important to give bears their space. If you spot an animal, the key is to stay at a safe distance and never let bears get into birdseed, garbage or other human food. For more information on how to cohabitate with bears, visit here.

Anyone who spots or encounters the bear is asked by CDFW wildlife experts to complete a Wildlife Incident Report, that will help with tracking.

Contact Us