Amateur naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts are beside themselves over the recent surveillance video filming of a very brown black bear cruising through neighborhoods in Discovery Bay, Knightsen and Oakley.
Several videos of el oso have been posted in recent days, showing a curiously unruffled bruin cruising suburban neighborhoods as if they were, well, his.
Local officials immediately issued common sense advice such as staying a good distance away from the critter, keeping pets and pet food indoors and preventing curious children from bouncing outside to play with the bear-bear.
There hasn’t been this much excitement over a bear sighting since the 1850s, when much bigger and a whole lot crankier grizzly bears – Ursus californicus – roamed San Francisco and environs, picking off the odd steer and maybe an unwary miner or two.
After that, as more Argonauts flooded the state in search of the yellow iron or a place to stake out a homestead the species’ fate was sealed as mankind did what it does best and began to slaughter the animals in wholesale number.
Within 75 years of the discovery of gold, the imposing California grizzly once spotted in family groups up and down the Pacific Coast had become extinct. In 1922, a grizzly was hunted down and killed at Horse Corral Meadows in Tulare County. One lone bear was spotted near Sequoia National Park in 1925 but, after that, the California grizzly was never seen again.
We did put one on our state flag though, so there’s that.
Black bear, on the other hand, have managed to retain a toe-hold in the Bay Area, with one spotted in St. Helena in the 1990s and traces – usually scat and hair – turning up in Marin from time to time.
That’s why so many folks are all aflutter over the most recent – recorded – visit by Ursus americanus californiensis, made around 6:15 am Sunday on Marina Circle in Discovery Bay. And who can blame them?