Bear Sightings In Big Bear In 2023

With recent reports of increased bear sightings in the Big Bear area, many visitors and residents are wondering just how common it is to spot these large mammals while spending time in the mountains. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Bear sightings in Big Bear are quite common, especially during late spring and summer when the animals become more active in their search for food.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the current state of the Big Bear bear population, where and when you’re most likely to catch sight of them, safety tips for both humans and bears when encounters happen, and what authorities are doing to responsibly manage these wilderness inhabitants.

Current Population and Behavior of Big Bear Bears

Estimated Population Size

The population of bears in Big Bear has been steadily increasing over the past decade. According to the latest estimates from the Big Bear Wildlife Conservation Society, there are approximately 200 bears currently residing in the area.

This is a significant increase from the 2010 population count of only 100 bears. The rise in population can be attributed to successful conservation efforts and the availability of food sources in the region.

Peak Activity and Feeding Times

Bears in Big Bear are most active during the spring and summer months when food is abundant. They typically emerge from hibernation in early spring and spend their days foraging for berries, nuts, and other vegetation.

These feeding times are crucial for bears as they need to consume enough calories to sustain themselves throughout the year. The peak activity of bears in Big Bear usually occurs during dawn and dusk, when they are more likely to search for food near residential areas.

Common Bear Behaviors

Bears in Big Bear exhibit a variety of behaviors that are important to understand for both residents and visitors. One common behavior is bluff charging, where a bear may charge towards a perceived threat but stop short of making contact.

This behavior is often a warning sign that the bear feels threatened and is trying to establish dominance.

Another common behavior is tree scratching, where bears use their claws to mark trees. This behavior is a way for bears to communicate with other bears and establish territory boundaries. It is important for residents to be aware of these markings and avoid areas where bears have been active.

Lastly, bears in Big Bear are known to be highly intelligent and resourceful. They have been observed opening car doors and rummaging through trash cans in search of food. It is crucial for residents and visitors to properly secure their garbage and keep food out of reach to minimize bear-human conflicts.

For more information on bear behavior and safety tips, visit the National Park Service website.

When and Where Bear Sightings are Most Likely

Bear sightings in Big Bear can occur throughout the year, but there are certain factors that can increase the likelihood of encountering these majestic creatures. By understanding the seasonal fluctuations, specific parts of the Big Bear region, and the types of bear habitats, visitors can better prepare themselves and take necessary precautions.

Seasonal Fluctuations

Bear activity in Big Bear tends to vary depending on the season. During the warmer months, from spring to fall, bears are more active as they search for food and prepare for hibernation. This is when bear sightings are most common.

However, it is important to note that bears can still be spotted during the winter months, especially if there is a lack of natural food sources or if they are disturbed from their hibernation.

According to a study conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, bear sightings in Big Bear are highest between the months of May and October. This is when bears are most active and are more likely to venture into residential areas in search of food.

Parts of Big Bear Region

While bears can be found throughout the Big Bear region, there are certain areas where sightings are more frequent. The outskirts of town, near forested areas and hiking trails, are known hotspots for bear activity.

These areas provide bears with ample food sources, such as berries, acorns, and small mammals.

Additionally, campgrounds and picnic areas in the Big Bear region are also common places to spot bears. These areas often have food remnants left behind by visitors, attracting bears looking for an easy meal.

It is important for visitors to properly dispose of their trash and follow bear-safe practices to minimize potential encounters.

Types of Bear Habitats

Bears in Big Bear primarily inhabit forested areas, as they provide the necessary resources for their survival. The San Bernardino National Forest, which surrounds the Big Bear Valley, is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species that support bear populations.

The forest’s oak woodlands, coniferous forests, and meadows offer bears ample food sources and suitable shelter.

According to the National Park Service, black bears, which are the most common bear species in Big Bear, are highly adaptable and can thrive in various habitats. They are known to explore different areas in search of food, making it important for residents and visitors alike to be aware of their surroundings and take appropriate precautions.

For more information on bear habitats and safety tips, you can visit the National Park Service website or the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

Staying Safe During Bear Encounters

Precautions for Hikers

When venturing into Big Bear’s wilderness, it’s important to take precautions to reduce the risk of bear encounters. Hikers should always make noise while on the trail, as bears are more likely to avoid humans if they are aware of their presence.

Additionally, it’s recommended to hike in groups whenever possible, as bears are less likely to approach larger groups. Keeping children close and pets on a leash can also help minimize the chances of a bear encounter.

Securing Food and Trash

One of the main reasons bears are drawn to populated areas is the availability of food. Properly securing food and trash is crucial in preventing bear encounters. When camping or picnicking, store food in bear-resistant containers or hang it from a tree branch at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet from the trunk.

Dispose of trash in bear-proof dumpsters or bear-resistant trash cans. By eliminating these attractants, we can help keep bears away from human-populated areas.

What To Do If Approached

Despite taking precautions, there may still be instances where hikers encounter bears. In such situations, it’s important to remain calm and avoid sudden movements. Backing away slowly while facing the bear is recommended, as turning and running can trigger the bear’s predatory instincts.

If the bear charges, stand your ground and make yourself look bigger by raising your arms and shouting. Carrying bear pepper spray can also be a valuable tool for self-defense, but it should only be used as a last resort.

It’s worth noting that bear behavior can vary, and it’s always best to consult local authorities or wildlife experts for specific guidelines and recommendations. For more information on bear safety, you can visit the National Park Service website.

Bear Population Management Strategies

Dealing with bear sightings in Big Bear is a crucial task that requires effective population management strategies. Here are some key strategies that have been implemented:

Education and Outreach

One of the most important approaches to managing the bear population is through education and outreach programs. By educating residents and tourists about the behavior of bears and how to coexist safely with them, we can reduce the chances of negative encounters.

These programs provide valuable information on proper food storage, bear-proofing homes and campsites, and what to do if you encounter a bear. Organizations like the Big Bear Valley Education and Conservation Trust (BBVECT) have been at the forefront of these efforts, conducting workshops and distributing informational materials to raise awareness among the community.

Waste and Trash Management Laws

An effective strategy to mitigate bear-human conflicts is the implementation of waste and trash management laws. These laws aim to reduce the availability of food sources for bears by requiring residents and businesses to properly secure their trash.

Municipalities in Big Bear have introduced regulations that mandate the use of bear-resistant trash containers and prohibit leaving trash outside overnight. These measures have proven to be effective in reducing bear sightings and minimizing potential conflicts.

Tracking and Tagging Efforts

Tracking and tagging bears is another important aspect of bear population management. By monitoring their movements and behavior, wildlife experts gain valuable insights into their habitat preferences and population dynamics.

This information allows them to make informed decisions about conservation efforts and implement targeted management strategies. Organizations like the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have been involved in tagging and tracking bears in Big Bear to better understand their population size and distribution.


As the Big Bear region continues to attract growing numbers of visitors and new residents every year, bear sightings are simply part of coexisting with these wild inhabitants. While startling when they happen, most bear encounters end without incident, especially when proper precautions are taken.

As authorities closely monitor bear behaviors and populations, it also comes down to humans making smart and respectful choices for safe and responsible enjoyment of these mountains we share.

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