originally posted on The Ojai Post
What I saw from the Aliso St. Bear Tragedy – A Timeline
Submitted by Chris Nottoli, Producing Artistic Director, Theater 150…
(Please excuse the typos. It’s late)
At about 10:30 pm on Oct. 9th, Deb called me at work to tell me there was a bear in our yard. It had come over the fence from Dennis and Janis’ place. Then Deb hears a large crash outside. I tell her I’m pedaling home, fast.
10:32 pm: Deb and I are standing on eucalyptus logs, headlamps and flashlights on, scanning the neighbors yard to the north of us. Deb claims to have seen two big eyes in the fading light of her flashlight. I tell her she’s nuts and that the bear is long gone by now.
10:40 pm A huge bear ambles out of the bushes in the neighbors yard and walks toward the fence. I apologize to Deb for doubting her. There is a cop waiting by our side yard fence. One of us yells out, ‘Got him! He’s right here!’ (Can’t help thinking that sealed his fate. Had we turned off our lights and kept the cops out of it, maybe he’d be still tucked away somewhere.) The cop comes thru our yard and another goes to the street opposite ours, Oak, to go around the front of our neighbors. The cop jumps our fence and enters the yard where the bear is. The cop is calm, gun in his holster, and intent on making noise enough to get the bear going thru this yard north to the hills. He kicks the empty tin swimming pool, he throws some rocks, he walks towards the bear. The bear just sort of stays out of reach, hunkering down in the bushes.
10:50pm The bear walks around the swimming pool and tries to climb the Eucalyptus in front of Deb and I, about 6 ft on the other side of the fence. He gets 10 feet up then slides back down. We back up. When we come back to the fence, the bear has ambled to the back of the neighbors house.
11pm: The cop from the front makes his way thru an adjacent yard and meets up the other one. They talk. This new cop has his riot gun out pointing it to where the bear might be. He asks if the first cop if even took his gun out. The first cop says, ‘No, why would I?’
11:15pm The first cop’s Sergeant comes on the radio to tell him there are two choices as quoted to him by Fish and Game: Keep herding him north until he gets back to the woods, or Fish and Game (F&G) will come out, tranquilize it then euthanize it. We are all surprised by that one. The cops tell us apparently that’s just the way it is done these days. The cops decide, with some verbal encouragement, to keep the bear moving. The bear by this point has slipped out of our flashlight’s beams. The cops creep foreward and finally spot him under the deck.
11:30pm – Someone gets the idea to open the gate near the bear to let him out of this yard to the north. Finally, someone shoves the door open and it swings right into the bears face. The bear immediately pushes it back shut. This brought laughter out of everyone.
Midnight: The bear gets up and walks towards our fence, the cops move out the side of my neighbors yard. It walks right towards us. I tell Deb to get inside, stay watching for a few more seconds, then bail. It was fucking HUGE! That’s the biggest bear I’ve ever seen. That bear was so big, I had a video camera in my hand, it was 5 feet from me, and I was too freaked to press REC.
We bolt for the house. I look over my shoulder to see the two big eyes lit up in my headlamp coming over the fence. I run to our side gate and open it up so he can mosey right on through. The gate closes itself as I duck inside. The bear decides to go the other side yard and finds a chain link fence. Deb and I and Al the dog are standing in our sun room, windows on three sides, in front of the glass French doors. The bear comes up to those doors (they open inwards), I lean on them from the inside, he sniffs, then he moseys around to the other side yard and hops the fence I just tried to open for him. We go through the house to the front and open the top of the Dutch door. He’s gone into the night. Just blackness, no cars, no bear, no cops. I say to myself, “Perfect. He eluded us all” and start watching a movie knowing he’s going to be fine.
1am: Oct. 10th: I hear cop cars on the street out front. I open the Dutch door and see the bear, lit up by flashlights, up a tree across the street. I figured, he’d wait it out till the wee hours of the morning, come on down and high tail it out here.
2am: A bunch of loud drunk folks come up the street and I hear the word ‘bear’ a lot. They carried on loudly for a bit then I go to bed and lie to Deb telling her the bear has escaped.
6am: I wake and confidently open the Dutch door expecting to see the spot where the bear was. Instead I see the bear, back facing me, up about 30 ft in the same tree across the street. He hadn’t moved.
7:27am: I start updating the situation on Facebook. (Everything from here on out is directly lifted from my facebook posts.) I’ve got a tragedy unfolding here. That bear from last night is stuck up in the tree across the street. The sun is up, people are starting to notice, the cops are trying to keep folks back. From the conversation last night, Fish and Game’s policy is if they have to tranquilize it, they’ll euthanize it. Bear hunting season opens today. This is bad. Anyone have any ideas on how to save this thing?
7:54 am: The bear is asleep. In the tree.
8:22am: Bear Watch. Deb calls Laura Stinchfield, the pet psychic.
8:44am: (I post a picture) The Animal Psychic has arrived. She’s talking with the bear, and the cops.
9:12am: (Post a picture of a bunch of folks in the street) So, the circus has started. The cops are doing their best to keep folks like me at bay. This shot was taken from my front porch while drinking cocoa. Thanks for making that Deb.
9:33am: Turns out, when bears are sleeping in trees, they wake up on occasion, shift their weight from foot to foot, look about, then hunker back down. Then, of course, they ask themselves, “How the fuck did i get up here and who called the cops?”
10am: (post a few more pictures) It’s a perfect bear. Big, well fed, black as coal. And completely non-aggressive. Deb myself and the cops were within feet of it and it just tried to get around us.
10:26am: (post more photos) Bear Watch! Yogi, head resting on paw, asks himself, “Was this picanic basket worth it?” Boo Boo, known for his dry humor, simply shrugged his shoulders.
10:51am: (In response to someone asking if they intend to tranq it.) I meant that they intend to do nothing right now. They’re waiting it out. As long as it’s in the tree, it’s fine. The bear is asleep. Let’s hope it waits till nightfall.
10:46am: Bear Watch 09! (In Seattle in the 90’s, King used to start every news cast with some Watch! rain, fog, earthquake, whatever, then they’d go on to sensationalize something like… a down pour. In Seattle. Yeah.) Here is the current thinking:… If they tranq the bear and relocate it, a hunter can shoot it, eat the meat and get poisoned. Can’t they just hang a tag on his neck that says, “Shoot him > I’m poisoned?”
11:22am: The idea is not to tranq him when he comes down but to herd him north, up Signal. That’s what they tried to do last night with apparently, no success. There is rumor he came into town from the south, but they don’t want him to go through downtown. Crazy.
11:57am: The cops have finally blocked off the street.
1:11pm: Bear Watch 09! HORSE TRAILER WANTED with a gate that closes firm. Fill it full of corn, avocados, water and park it under the tree. Tonight when he comes down, he may wander in there, we slam the door on him and drive his ass out of town. The cops are patient but this bear isn’t the best at navigating backyards. He makes a wrong turn towards downtown and he’s toast. I’m not kidding about the trailer. Send it around.
3pm: In a lawn chair in my front yard, doing spreadsheets and budgets on my laptop for next year’s plays, drinking some lemon water. Did I mention that the street is closed off, cops parked in front and i’m watching a 450 pound bear sleep in a tree? Gotta love ya Ojai.
3:15pm: Bear Watch 09! KEYT 3 has shown up. Are they a reputable news organization?
3:17pm: Bear Watch 09! The bear seems intent on not waking up during siesta hours. They are surmising that it’s a Southern European bear.
4pm: Bear Watch 09! Fish and Game’s plan: Wait. I like it.
6pm: Bear Watch 09! Still waiting for darkness. The plan: bear comes down and heads north then the cops follow him. If he heads south towards downtown, they dart him. No concrete details of any relocation plans. Cops have cleared the streets for two block…s sound. Just us residents left to witness. Cops are getting antsy.
6:15pm Bear Watch 09! Things are looking grim. The horse trailer idea was nixed, the cops want it to walk north but hell, I won’t walk north when cops ask. Getting down to last options: if someone has a legit way to take this bear out of here, get down… here. If and when they dart it, it’s game over. Anyone?
6:20pm: Bear Watch! 09! We’re ending our live, uninterrupted coverage. As the sun starts to go down, I’m forced away so there aren’t many witnesses left. The cops have cleared the streets and asked the residents to go inside. No one is left to… decide this bear’s fate but the folks with the guns. I’m not hopeful. The discussion is plan A or B. Plan A – he walks the right way and lives to dumpster dive another day. Plan B- Well we know B. Why isn’t there a C,D,E,F or G?
7pm: Bear Watch 09! Breaking News. As the situation worsens, Team Bear Watch 09! member Brent Florence has come up with a stroke of genius, plan C! He’s going to rob a bank to draw the cops away. Team Bear Watch 09! member Deb Norton asked, “Wha…t about all the Fish and Game guys with the guns?” Our sharp-minded reporter Brent fired back, ” I’ll use a loaded cheetah! Does anyone have a cheetah! We need a cheetah!”
10pm: Bear Watch 09! Team Bear Watch 09! has returned (Happy Birthday again Val) to find most of the roadblocks gone and just a skeleton crew of cops and game wardens here. The bear is still up the tree. They’ve shut out most of the lights on our stre…et and are trying to give the bear a wide berth. Here’s a photo (picture blackness) Hope lingers. Cross your fingers, visualize a path north to the hills.
10:?pm: Bear Watch 09! Silhouettes of the game warden loading his gun. The others are warming up, doing stretches. Coming up on 24 hours since the bear first entered our backyard.
10:30pm: Fish and Game are at the base of the tree. The bear is huffing. I think I just heard them dart him. Twice.
10:33pm: Wait! rubber bullets? They’re shooting the tree. In total darkness. All the trucks have been moved up.
10:38pm: Their hitting him with the spot lights. WTF is going on? Cops are putting on gloves.
10:40pm: They shot him again. Rubber bullet. Again. Dart- direct hit on his ass.
10:50pm: Bear fell out of the tree. Unconscious. They’re shooting him up with more.
10:55pm: You guys remember the original King Kong? That’s what it looked like. He slowly let go his grip, pin wheeled over backwards then crashed thru branches 40 ft. to the ground.
11:15pm: They’re trying to load him into up pick-up. But first they have to use a truck to drag him out of the cactus.
11:15pm: Trucks are all rolling away. An unsurprising institutional killing.
Midnight, October 11th:Bear watch 09. All Quiet. From the team, Deb, Laura, Brent and Chris, good night. Damn.