Black Bear Cub Orphaned by Hit-and-Run Crash

By Jeff Miller   |   May 24, 2022

Time may be running out for an orphaned black bear cub on the loose here after its mother was killed in a hit-and-run crash Friday night. 

It happened on East Valley Road near the intersection with Ladera Lane. At about 8:30 pm on Friday the 13th, a nearby resident heard screeching tires, a thump, and an animal squeal. On investigating he met the driver of a car who said he had witnessed the collision and saw the impact vehicle drive away, leaving two bears behind on East Valley Road, one curled in a fetal position. The witness said he called 911 and then watched the bears move off the road. 

On Monday morning, passing motorist Connie Gillies saw turkey vultures at work in the empty lot at the corner of East Valley and Ladera and discovered the dead bear lying on its back, the left side of its rib cage completely exposed. Ms. Gillies reported the situation to Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, which notified Santa Barbara Fish and Wildlife. She also alerted Alys Martinez of KEYT and sent photos. 

Word also reached wildlife biologist Dustin Pearce of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), who contacted Ms. Gillies and then visited the site Monday afternoon to investigate. There he found what appeared to be cub prints beside the dead adult female. After checking the terrain he loaded the presumed mother for transport to a DFW site in Lompoc for study. He also planned to check on “where communication failed,” and “why we weren’t notified” before Monday.

Gretchen Lieff of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network voiced concern that the cub that may have had no food or water since Friday night. If so, Pearce said it may start showing up in area backyards looking for food. Then, hopefully, it could be taken to a DFW site for rehab. 

Locals call the empty lot at the corner of East Valley Road and Ladera Lane the “deer nursery,” because fauns are sometimes born and nurtured there. Ms. Gillies, a nature photographer, often stops and sees bobcats, deer, falcons, and red-tailed hawks. “Every time I’ve photographed animals here it’s shocked me how fast people drive on Ladera,” she said. “It was just a matter of time before a tragedy like this happened. Something needs to be done to protect our wildlife.”  


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