A juvenile black bear that had risen to prominence for taking up residence in the local mountains, and visiting Malibu beaches, has been killed by a vehicle on the 101 Freeway at the top of the Conejo Grade between Newbury Park and Camarillo.
In April, wildlife officials captured a black bear in the Santa Monica Mountains for the first time. The bear, named BB-12, weighed 210 pounds and was estimated to be around 3-4 years old.
BB-12 had been spotted in various locations within the Santa Monica Mountains through wildlife trail cameras before being tagged. Biologists believe he was the first resident bear in the area as there was no evidence of an existing population in the area. The nearest population of black bears is in the Santa Susana Mountains, and bear sightings further south are rare.
According to the National Park Service (NPS) BB-12 was killed on July 20 when a driver called the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to report the accident.
“When any of our radio-collared animals get killed on the road, it’s sad but not that surprising after 20 years of studying these animals in the region,” said Jeff Sikich, the lead field biologist for the mountain lion study at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA). “Roadkill is the number one source of mortality for our mountain lions, so there’s no reason to believe it would be much different for other large carnivores.”
Sikich said BB-12 moved a lot in the short time they followed him and crossed major roads successfully five times.
“On the sixth time, he unfortunately got hit,” Sikich said.
BB-12 had to have crossed busy freeways prior to his initial capture in order to reach this area and he made at least a couple of visits to beaches in Malibu where residents captured images of his footprints on the sand.
Freeway crossings are part of life for large animals living in the Los Angeles area and the famed Mountain Lion P-22 was remarkable for his ability to survive in the environment. However, at the time of his death, P-22 also showed signs of a recent strike by a vehicle.
BB-12 was recorded crossing busy roads several times in the days before his death.
“He provided valuable information in the short time that we studied him,” said Seth Riley, the wildlife branch chief for SMMNRA. “Wide-ranging animals like this young male bear are especially useful for learning about connectivity in the region, and this was certainly true of BB-12, given the five major road crossing that he made in such a short time.”
Later this year, NPS biologists, in cooperation with the Ventura Transportation Commission, Caltrans, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, will begin a new study of wildlife connectivity along the Conejo Grade.
“This just points even more to the importance of learning about connectivity, or the lack thereof, in this area,” Riley said. “In the long run, it would be great to increase opportunities for animals to safely cross in this area, too. We’ll see.”