A bear attracted to Santa Margarita by someone who had left out pie tins full of cat food for feral cats surprised several people late Tuesday afternoon — including a 15-year-old and his friends who relied on his Boy Scout training to scare it away.
Connie Church of Santa Margarita said her son Nathan was in the park near the PG&E substation with friends about 5 p.m. when they saw the bear in a nearby field. Several girls in the park ran away screaming — attracting the bear’s attention.
The bear approached, reared up on its hind legs and growled — appearing to be about 6 feet tall. Using his Boy Scout training, Nathan Church told everyone to get on top of a picnic table and look big.
The bear ambled away. Several in the group saw a cub with the adult bear. Nathan called 911 and reported the incident, Connie Church said.
“It was quite a terrifying experience,” she said.
The state Department of Fish and Game dispatched two game wardens about the same time to investigate the sighting, said Lt. Todd Tognazzini.
Although the bear had left the area by the time they arrived, they interviewed six people who said they had seen it, he said, adding that the sightings are credible. However, no one reported the confrontation at the park to the Fish and Game authorities, Tognazzini said.
The wardens determined that the bear had been attracted to the area by pie tins full of cat food. Putting out pet food increases the likelihood that wildlife will cause problems for people.
“Baiting wildlife is a violation, and we want it stopped,” Tognazzini said.
The Santa Margarita area is frequented by bears. They are often seen crossing Highway 101 at the top of the Cuesta Grade and are sometimes hit by cars there.