Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Your Neighborhood Bear

From May 1 to June 21, California officials consider it "second bear season."

ByABC News
May 23, 2013, 7:01 PM

May 24, 2013 — -- April showers may bring May flowers but, in the foothills of Southern California, you can also expect bears.

From May 1 to June 21, as grills fire up and tasty smells waft through the neighborhood, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife considers it "second bear season."

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The department spokesman, Andrew Hughan, told ABC News that he expects at least one bear a week for the next month.

So far, the bears have already been living up to his predictions. All around Southern California, news reports have shown bears climbing fences, spooking horses and roaming streets all in search of their next meal.

One woman in Duarte, Calif., came downstairs thinking there was a burglar in her home. Instead, she found a cub halfway through her kitchen window.

"You must have had something that smelled good in that kitchen," the 911 operator told the woman, who had barricaded herself in her bedroom bathroom, according to the 911 recording obtained by ABC News.

And that's the problem.

As bears eat more human food or garbage, or even the fish out of the koi pond, they become habituated to a human food source and less frightened of people, according to the California Department of Fish and Wild Life website. This could lead to a more tenacious and even aggressive bear.

"Once a bear's habituated, they cannot unlearn," Hughan told ABC News. "It's a death sentence."

That's because bears that stubbornly return time and again to scour the same neighborhood can be put down, according to the "black bear depredation policy" in California.

"We've moved bears 100 miles away and they'll come back ... following the scent trails." Hughan said.

He added that one bear even came back to the very same trash can.

A bear's sense of smell is 100 times better than a bloodhound's and 1,000 times better than a human's. So residents need to be smart.

Bottom line: If we don't set the plate, bears will not come. Don't leave food outside, secure your trash bins, and even clean barbecue grills.

There are ways to live with the bear population that is both safe for us and safe for them. Perhaps it could even evolve into a mutually beneficial relationship.

The Living With Wildlife Foundation (LWWF) in Montana works with bears at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center wildlife park that can no longer live in the wild because they were orphaned young or habituated.

Patti Sowka, director of the LWWF, told ABC News that the bears can assist companies by testing "bear-proof" products filled with anything from huckleberry jam to muskrat castor oil to see if the items can live up to the product guarantee -- a real-world take on quality control.