Oct. 30, 2012
By Tiobe Barron, OVN correspondent
Los Padres National Forest’s Ojai Ranger District officials have closed Gridley Trail after a local woman, who was walking her dogs Oct. 19, encountered a 250-pound mother brown bear on the trail. Terri Fernow received minor injuries, a laceration on her wrist and abrasions on her back, but did not seek medical attention after the encounter.
The trail will be closed to hikers until Nov. 2 while officials examine the trail conditions and determine the level of public safety in that area.
According to Andrew Hughan, of the California Department of Fish and Game, avocados are rich in fat and bears know where their local avocado orchards are. More than one avocado orchard adjoins the Gridley Trail.
This time of year the bears are stocking up on food before hibernating for the winter, and Hughan says that the very dry summer we had this year may account for less food in bears’ natural habitat, driving them into more residential areas as they search for food.
“It is the time of year when bears migrate downhill to find food sources during the fall and winter. Their food sources become limited by the end of the summer and they travel greater distances or to lower elevations to find food. In the area of the Gridley Trail, bears have been observed recently in the avocado orchards, but also in the upper sections of the trail,” states a recent press release from the Ojai Ranger District.
“It is imperative that hikers using the forest trails understand bear behaviors and take appropriate actions to provide for their safety,” said Charlie Robinson, recreation officer for the Ojai Ranger District. “Generally, bears are more active in the morning and evening hours, and hikers are encouraged to use another trail or hike at another time of day to avoid encountering bears.”
Janice Mackay, information officer with the CDFG, says the department has halted their search for the mother bear.
According to the CDFG website, there have been 15 confirmed bear attacks in California since 1980.
This was the second interaction between Ojai residents and bears in just as many weeks, after a ranch employee discovered an abandoned bear cub in an orchard off Fairview Road Oct. 12.