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Black bear caught on camera in Bay Area yard

A black bear last visited a Marin County town in May 2021. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A home surveillance camera in Marin County captured rare footage of a California black bear walking past the house early Tuesday morning.

A resident in San Rafael’s Mont Marin neighborhood near the Northgate Mall posted the footage to the social media site Nextdoor. The resident said the bear visited at around 2 a.m. Tuesday. The animal appeared to be approximately the same size as a nearby wheelbarrow.

“We do have bears come through Marin on occasion, but it is unusual to see one in town,” said Lisa Bloch, director of marketing and communications for Marin Humane. “Then again, maybe it isn’t all that unusual now that we all have security cameras and can see the wildlife that visits us at night.”

Marin Humane confirmed the bear sighting late Tuesday morning. Officials from the agency and the San Rafael Police Department said they spoke to the resident who caught the footage and searched the area but did not see the bear. 

“We had every reason to expect another bear sighting in Marin County,” said Alison Hermance, director of communications for WildCare, a local wildlife husbandry nonprofit. “The bear population is doing very well, so we are going to start seeing them in the Bay Area more and more often.” 

In May 2021, the entire county was shocked and excited when a bear showed up in Downtown San Anselmo, about five miles from Tuesday’s sighting. It was the first time a black bear had been spotted in Marin since 2003.

In recent years, residents have reported bear sightings in rural areas like West Marin, but one near Highway 101 is extremely rare. A Larkspur resident reported a bear sighting in Baltimore Canyon in May this year. It was about around 10 miles south of Tuesday’s sighting, prompting officials to wonder if it is the same bear—or if there could be two roaming the county.

Officials said there is no present danger to the public. Hermance said the bear may be a young male just passing through and wants to assure residents that a single black bear poses no danger to humans unless provoked.

Bloch and Hermance said people who are concerned about bears—especially those living on the edge of open space—should keep pets inside at night and make sure their property doesn’t offer any enticing food sources by securing trash cans and taking down bird feeders, as one would do to protect against raccoons and coyotes.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife conservatively estimates the current statewide population of California black bears to be 30,000-40,000, up from 10,000-15,000 bears in 1982. 

“It is an interesting challenge to get Marin people used to living with bears—people in Tahoe do it; people on the East Coast do it,” said Hermance. “Now we need to start reducing things around our homes that might attract bears.”

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