The bears are back
New study aims to track bears’ movements in Sonoma Valley
The mighty grizzly bear that adorns California’s state flag has been missing from California for nearly a century – but lately there’s good news from bear country: In some places, including Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and other Sonoma Valley open spaces, black bears are slowly but surely moving into old (and new) ranges.
The local nonprofit Sonoma Ecology Center (SEC), in collaboration with several partners and led by wildlife tracker and ecologist Meghan Walla-Murphy, has launched the North Bay Bear Collaborative to study these animals’ movements, help educate local residents, and provide data-driven advice for ways to make bears’ and humans’ lives more harmonious in Sonoma Valley.
The highest density of black bears in the contiguous United States is in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, putting Sonoma County at the southern edge of their slow migration; a logical place for this study. As seen on SEC’s wildlife cameras in and around Sugarloaf State Park, black bears have recently moved back into Sugarloaf and the Mayacamas on a full-time basis.
The North Bay Bear Collaborative project seeks to answer questions about the bears’ status and behavior – where are they, where are they going, what areas do they use and need, what are their numbers and ages and sexes – as well as what humans need to do to comfortably coexist with them.
SEC’s partners include Sonoma County Regional Parks, California State Parks, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Audubon Canyon Ranch, and Pepperwood Preserve. To support the North Bay Bear Collaborative, or find out more, go to sugarloafpark.org/support/.