Novato police warn residents after 3 bears spotted at neighborhood park

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Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Novato police warn residents after 3 bears spotted at park
Novato police are warning residents after three bears were spotted at Miwok Park Sunday.

NOVATO, Calif. (KGO) -- A warning coming from Marin County after three bears were spotted in a neighborhood park in Novato.

It's believed to be a mama bear with her two cubs. Novato police officers say there haven't been any problems but are urging caution.

"I was shocked it was yesterday when I heard about it!"

News that has made Miwok Park the talk of the town. You see a mother bear was spotted with her two cubs here on Sunday, according to police.

"I was excited, nervous, and worried," said Jasper Gibson.

"You should be careful because bears are larger than you, of course," said Reid Gibson.

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The Gibson boys are twins who just turned eight and yes, they are likely smaller than the bears. Monday they were in the park with their dad.

"We were looking for tracks and poop and other things like maybe real bears," said Jasper.

Officers confirm that bear scat, or poop, was found near the entrance to the Miwok Park Playground.

We sat down with Alison Hermance of WildCare, who specializes in animals in Marin County.

"Certainly not in the last 20 years, we have not had a mother bear with cubs so this would be a first time sighting in this," said Hermance.

And while that is exciting, not one person we talked with here has seen this bear family in-person, in a picture, or on video. Making everything a bit mysterious and a little frightening.

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"I thought, wouldn't that be something if it started walking towards you and that would be a little bit scary," said Linda Hobson.

Bear sightings are not common here at Miwok Park, none of the park garbage cans are even bear proof.

Hermance though says these are black bears, not grizzlies. They're shy and usually want to avoid people.

"The fact that the sighting here in Novato was a mother bear with young bears ups the ante a little bit and gives us information that says there are probably more bears here in Marin County than we knew about or anyone gave any credit to right," said Hermance.

"That's kind of exciting because if there's a growing bear population in Marin County, that is wonderful," said Bradley Russ.

But if they are here to stay, the warning is clear. Do not feed them and do not stalk them for a picture.

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"You want to make yourself feel big. You can make noise, you can clap your hands, you can yell, get away bear, get away bear. You want to do something that reinforces in that bear's mind that human beings are dangerous and unpleasant," said Hermance.

Novato police issued this statement Sunday night:

On Sunday, July 23, 2023, the Novato Police received initial reports of a bear sighting in the area of Miwok Park. The bears were described as a mother and two cubs. Officers found bear scat near the entrance to the Miwok Park playground on the San Miguel Way side. The Novato Police Department is advising the community to use extreme caution when entering the area, especially ones that are wooded or contain lots of brush.

According to the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, bears are generally afraid of people, and aggressive behavior is rare. However, a bear will be defensive when protecting their young or a food source or if they are startled. Most of the time a bear will avoid confrontation, but if they become aggressive, please take necessary precautions.

SAFETY TIPS REGARDING BEAR: Although bear sightings are rare in Novato or Marin, you should follow a few simple rules to keep you and your family safe:

WILD ANIMAL TIPS: - DO NOT APPROACH a bear if seen, especially one that is feeding or with offspring. Most bears will try to avoid confrontation. - DO NOT RUN. Slowly back away and don't turn your back on the bear. - DO NOT LIE DOWN & PLAY DEAD. Fight back if attacked. - Avoid hiking or jogging through wooded areas where bears are most active-dawn, dusk, or at night. - Always leave an escape route for the bear. - Keep a close watch on small children when hiking or traveling in or about wooded areas. - Make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects; pick up small children.

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