Wednesday, June 18, 2008

OMG It's Nature: Im in Ur Valley, Killin Ur Bearz

I’m disappointed. SCV Bear Watch 2008: The Invasion is over. After a certain Ashley Harrison killed the bear in a collision on Monday night, all of my plans are ruined. There’s no longer any point guessing which household’s pet will be the first one devoured by the wayward ursid. It’s moot to even speculate about whether a group called Santa Claritans Against Black Bears In Our Neighborhoods (SCABBION) will materialize. The bear is gone.

Here's a map/timeline, based on June 14th report by Stephen Peeples and reports on June 16th and June 17th by Parimal Rohit[1].
*Friday morning, the bear was reported at Placerview Trail/North High Ridge Drive.
*Friday night, the bear was seen near Kathleen Avenue.
*Early Sunday morning, the bear was at Park Woodland Place.
*Late Monday night, a bear (if not the bear) was run over north of Sand Canyon/Highway 14.

The circumstances surrounding its death are still rather vague. Based on The Signal's coverage, we know:

Ashley Harris was driving northbound in the carpool lane of Highway 14 at 11:59 on a Monday night[2]. She struck a black bear and thought it was a dog.

She’s also from Palmdale [insert knowing nod here].

Oh, I know, that’s not fair. Don’t worry. I’m delighted that Harris is OK and I know that it’s easy for even the most alert drivers to hit an animal that goes bounding across a dark road at night. Still, it would be only fair for us to go run over one of Palmdale’s black bears—you know, an eye for an eye. Any volunteers?

The only thing left to speculate about is what drove the bear to visit the 'burbs. Predictably, we heard Ian Swift's take on things. When not describing new species of beetles, Swifty runs Placerita Canyon Park[3] and fields calls from reporters who have questions about Mother Nature. This time, he chalked the transgression up to the need to hydrate. The bear simply wanted an easy source of water.

I think we need to explore two alternative hypotheses. (1)Are we making Santa Clarita too attractive? Revitalizing Old Town Newhall and adding new bus stops and public art is fine, but not if it draws bears with a penchant for cultural appreciation into our neighborhoods. (2)Was this a grand stunt perpetrated by the City Council? The bear wandered all through the area near Benz Road and Kathleen Avenue. This is the site of a major traffic flow controversy (see last City Council meeting). Perhaps, thought some on C.C., releasing a bear would distract homeowners from traffic gripes and make them focus on more dire, immediate threats to safety.

Regardless of why it came and how it went, the bear reminded us that Santa Clarita has a wild side. As we move forward in preserving open space and expanding parkland, perhaps more of these big predators will find a hope near SCV. I hope they fare better than this bear.

[1]All of these in The Signal, of course. And Rohit seemed fond of using the word “bruin” as a synonym for bear in his article. As a UCLA Bruin (’06—woohoo!) myself, I take deep offense.
[2]A single person can drive in the carpool lane of the 14 during non-peak hours, right?

[3]Placerita aqui

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