Matt Manville shows where the bear chased him.
By Patric Hedlund
It was a dark night Monday, Aug. 17. Only a thin crescent moon lit these mountain neighborhoods where bears have been roaming for weeks, seeking food sources near homes.
Matt Manville, 38 was startled to suddenly hear his neighbors’ small dog screaming just after 10 p.m. The construction worker bolted out the door to see his neighbors running up a hill toward the blood-curdling cries.
Instinctively, he ran through the dark with them.
The couple’s chihuahua-size dog, Cosmo, had been set outside for a quick evening constitutional. A bear grabbed him and ran as the dog let out horrifying screams, Manville remembers. The bear dropped the mauled dog, which ran back toward the house, straight toward the people.
As the bear ran after its prey, it came suddenly face to face with humans. In the confusion and darkness, a sudden panic filled the night.
“It turned from a little scary with the dog being mauled, to really terrifying with the bear turning on individuals,” Manville recalls.
The bear began to pursue him. Manville, who has lived in Frazier Park since he was six years old, ran for his home with the bear behind him.
“I thought he was going to get me,” Manville said, still a little nervous. He ran up the outside stairs, then came back down to help as the bear turned toward the neighbor’s wife. She slipped, falling to the ground as the bear ran to within four feet of her.
“It was so dark,” Manville explained, “we couldn’t see a thing.”
The neighbor grabbed a shotgun. The bear turned toward him. “He had to wait before he could shoot, because [his wife] was on the other side of the bear, in the line of fire.”
Early Tuesday morning, The Mountain Enterprise photographed four 12-gauge shotgun shells on the ground, less than two feet from the body of a small bear, shot dead in Manville’s backyard.
“It was a stupid thing to do, in retrospect,” Manville said, “Three grown people should know better than to run after a bear in the dark.”
The neighbors rushed their dog for examination at an emergency clinic that night, then took him for further stitching Tuesday. “They said Cosmo has a cut on his leg, broken ribs and a bruised spleen. But my neighbors are really banged up. She has a twisted knee and his feet are all cut up. They tried to credit me with saving their dog and helping them, but there were no winners here last night, just a dead animal left in my back yard. It is sad.”
The neighbors told Manville they are afraid they will be ridiculed as animal killers. Manville believes most people will see what happened as a terrifying event that serves as a wake-up call to all those who live in mountains surrounded by forest.
“People need education about how to live here. Why doesn’t the sheriff’s office or the game warden give Bear Aware workshops? People need to learn to be careful about creating food sources that attract bears,” Manville said thoughtfully.
For weeks, the neighbors have been noticing about five bears roaming the region. “One mother bear with three cubs is teaching them to climb into all the outside garbage cans,” Manville said.
By 1 p.m. Tuesday a Fish and Game warden came to remove the carcass and investigate the event.
On Wednesday, Aug. 19 three small bear cubs were reported to The Mountain Enterprise, seen playing and eating garbage above Frazier Mountain Park.
Frazier Park resident Alice Garcia took photos and called the sheriff. Game Warden Terry Mullen said the bear that was shot Monday night could have been the mother of the three cubs, but he was not certain.
Cubs can present a danger, because the mother is usually nearby, ready to protect her babies.
Gary Sherfey (who lives above Frazier Mountain Park in the Pine Canyon Drive area) wrote Monday night, at about the same time the bear was shot, to warn people in the area to be Bear Aware.
“Our neighbors need to be very careful. In the last two weeks my family has been visited by no less than five different bears. [We] have been harrassed nightly by these bears.”
He said Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Gregory saw a very large bear at the Sherfey residence on Pine Canyon Drive on Saturday, Aug. 14, “and it wasn’t until he used his siren that the bear left… I and Deputy Gregory are hunters and I can tell you, this bear is huge—400 to 500 pounds.
“We need to remember: No feeding pets outside and secure our trash the best we can. One of our neighbors put their trash inside the yard to discourage the bear and [it] just tore the fence apart to get to the trash.”
For those who have garages, storing trash inside is recommended. Early picking of ripening fruit on trees is also advised.
Sherfey added, “Not to scare anyone but to avoid a dangerous confrontation, anyone coming home late at night needs to be aware. This big bear was not scared by my dogs or my presence. The last thing we need is a bear being destroyed or injury to one of our neighbors. Please be Bear Aware.”
—Additional reporting by Gary Meyer
This is part of the August 21, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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