Lonely Planet Writer

Bear spotted in Santa Monica Mountains for the first time in over 100 years

It’s been a long time, but a black bear has been spotted in the Santa Monica Mountains, north of Los Angeles.

A black bear.
A black bear. Image by US Fish and Wildlife Service / CC BY 2.0

The last time bears were seen in this area was in the nineteenth century, when grizzlies roamed the hills until hunting made them extinct. Now though, a photo snapped by the National Park Service (NPS) in late July shows a black bear wandering through the range that overlooks LA, Malibu and the Pacific Ocean.

Known bear populations live in other mountainous areas close to the city, including the San Gabriel and Santa Susana ranges, but experts hadn’t, until recently, seen any of the animals in the Santa Monica Mountains. The NPS is slightly baffled as to how the bear made its way to the area, given that major freeways and natural obstacles lie between where the existing bears are found and where this particular bear was spotted. As to whether the appearance of the bear represents a possible larger-scale reintroduction of black bears to the mountains, one NPS official told local news website laist.com that it would be “very premature to draw conclusions”.  

American black bear.
American black bear. Image by Marie Hale

The Santa Monica Mountains are a popular playground for residents of Los Angeles, running from Downtown and the LA river in the east all the way to glitzy Malibu and the Pacific in the west. The most visited sections of the range are Griffith Park where the Griffith Observatory and Hollywood Sign can be seen, though it’s easy to escape the crowds by striding out on one of the many trails through the mountains which offer plenty of exercise opportunities and views over the city and ocean.