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Multiple sightings of black bear reported in North Merced, near UC campus

Black bears are a common sight in nearby Mariposa County, but by the Merced Golf and Country Club?

Not usually, but a black bear apparently made his way down out of the foothills and into an area of North Merced more well known for luxury homes than wildlife.

Mike Enos, a wildlife trapper for the United States Department of Agriculture, said that sightings of the bear started coming in from the Hatch Road area of North Merced on Tuesday. Then the bear got more ambitious."We started hearing about the bear in the Farmland and Golf roads area," Enos said.

Enos was called out by the California Department of Fish and Game to try and trap the bear, Enos said. Glenn Rodriguez, a game warden with the state, said the bear is probably about 200 pounds, and tracks and fecal droppings confirmed that the bear was in the area.

"The bear has not been aggressive, but we have got the traps up," Rodriguez said.

Black bears are the only species of bears found in California, and there are an estimated 25,000 to 35,000 animals in the state. Males are usually bigger than females, and can weigh up to 500 pounds, although the average weight of a black bear is about 300 pounds.

Enos said that after the first reportings of the bear came in, it seemed to gravitate north, closer to the country club.

"We got calls from the subdivision by the lake," Enos said.

Enos said bears have ended up in Merced County from time to time, although it isn’t the bear’s usual range. Black bears live in the mountains and wooded areas of the state, but Enos said this was probably a young bear that got sidetracked.

"It probably followed a creek drainage down out of the hills and then found himself in civilization," Enos said.Black bears eat almost anything, Enos said, from fruits and berries to small mammals. Some black bears have turned into nuisances in Yosemite National Park, when they figure out that people mean food, and start breaking into cars and hassling people.

But most black bears just want to be left alone, and this one seems to be following that scenario.

The traps have been set where the bear was seen, but Enos said that no sightings had been made on Thursday, and he believes the bear may have moved away from where people live.

But if the bear is still around, people should stay away from it, although most black bears aren't aggressive. If the bear feels trapped, though, it could get aggressive.

"If we trap it, we will relocate it," Enos said. "But I kind of feel that he's moved on."

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com



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