When I got the early morning call to cover a 200 pound bear roaming in a residential area three days ago, it wasn't the first time I had photographed such a situation. This happens occasionally in cities in the county that have a "wildlife interface," like Fillmore, Santa Paula and even Ventura.
What made this instance unusual was that the bear was enjoying a night on the town in Oxnard. I couldn't believe that it had been first spotted a little after 2 a.m. in the parking lot of a fire station that is next to Pollo Loco, near the intersection of Oxnard Boulevard and Vineyard Avenue. It is one the busiest intersections in the city.
Luckily the bear didn't get into too much mischief as officers from Oxnard PD tracked it as it roamed the neighborhood for a few hours. Once officers from California Fish and Game arrived, the bear had luckily jumped a fence into Santa Clara cemetery, providing a good enclosed area. They shot the bear with tranquilizers in the hope that it would gently go to sleep allowing them to transport it back to the wild. Unfortunately, the bear fell asleep lodged between branches, 30 feet up in a tree.
Officials decided that the best way to get the bear down safely would be to do what firefighters call a "technical rescue." Firefighters from the Oxnard Fire Department brought in a ladder truck. The bear was sedated even more to insure that it would sleep through the process, and the firefighters went to work, cutting branches around the bear and rigging up a harness so that it could be hoisted by the ladder out of the tree. Once the bear was down safely, it was loaded in the back of a pickup and driven back to the wild. Apparently it awoke OK, probably suffering a hangover from its escapades the night before, and the affects of the tranquilizers, but otherwise none the worse for the wear.
Not surprising, the speculation was that the bear had followed the natural wildlife corridor provided by the Santa Clara River to get to Oxnard, which was within a mile of where he was roaming.
It was amazing to watch the firefighters rescue the bear. It reminded me of another animal rescue that I had photographed six months ago. A horse and rider had fallen down a barranca off the 118 Highway, near Lewis Road in Somis. Stuck in heavy brush about 20 feet down a steep bank, the horse couldn't right itself, and had to be lifted out, with the help of a tow truck by firefighters from the Ventura County Fire Department. This time as well, the rescue was successful.