AUBURN — Two runners and their dogs were stopped in their tracks after encountering a large black bear two miles into a trail that starts on Highway 49 at the Auburn City limits.
“It was a very big bear,” said Lee Seale, Sacramento’s chief probation officer and a trail runner.
He and his friend Mike Farrel, an assistant California attorney general, were running down the trail early Sunday morning when a bear blocked their path.
Seale picked up his small dog so it wouldn’t bark and attract the bear’s attention. Luckily it didn’t seem to be alarmed by the presence of people. The two took cell phone pictures of the encounter that lasted less than 30 seconds. They were careful not to run away or provoke the animal.
“While we were discussing what to do it made a U-turn and went back up the hill,” said Farrell.
Auburn State Recreation Area Chief Ranger Scott Litzke says the runners did the right thing by not drawing attention to themselves by trying to scare the bear off or running away from it.
Bears are common in the Auburn area but are usually seen in residential neighborhoods scavenging for food. But finding them on heavily used trails is rare.
Coincidentally Litzke had his own bear encounter in the recreation area administration compound.
“I heard some rustling in a tree, and I walked over to see what was going on,” said Litzke.
What he found was a 200-pound bear sitting in a fig tree near one of the complex’s buildings.
It’s unknown if it was the same bear because the area has a healthy population of black bears.
Litzke says there is no history of aggression by bears in the area. Perhaps that’s why there are mountain lion and poison oak warning signs at the trail head but no warning for bears.
Farrell and his family have used the trail for 15 years and have never run across a bear.
“I’m aware bears are out there, but now I’m very aware that we’re in the bears’ backyard,” said Farrell.