A bear visited a Lancaster business district early Thursday in an early morning search for food in trash bins at a pet grooming store before using storm drains to head back toward the wilderness.
The black bear was reported near 15th Street West and West Avenue K in the northern Los Angeles County community in the Antelope Valley. A security guard patrolling the area responded to a report of someone knocking on the business' back door.
"I heard the noise so I know something's out there, but I don't want to meet it face to face," said Lupe Telles, who works in the area.
The security guard arrived to find the bear, which appeared to have a scratch by its eye, going through trash. Deputies arrived before the bear ran down a street and into a storm drain channel.
At about 5:45, the NBC4's crew in Lancaster caught the bear on video as it climbed an embankment above the channel.
Witnesses told NBC4 they think the bear has probably made previous visits. The bear has been seen searching for food at a homeless encampment.
One lifelong Lancaster resident said bears do not usually come "this far down" from nearby mountains.
California's black bear population is at about 25,000 to 30,000, with most living in mountain areas above 3,000 feet, according to what the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife calls conservative estimates. In 1982, the statewide bear population was estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000.
Less than 10 percent of the state's black bear population lives in the central western and southwestern California region, according to agency estimates. About half of the population resides in an area north and west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Increased bear sightings -- and other wildlife -- might be partially attributed in recent years to the state's ongoing drought as animals are forced to search for food in areas outside their usual habitat, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. California has just finished its third-consecutive dry year with no end in sight to the dry spell.