Understanding the Growing Presence of Black Bears in Marin County

Black Bear

Most of us have likely seen the videos — grainy, out of focus Nest Cam footage of a bear ambling across a residential driveway in San Rafael’s Terra Linda neighborhood. Where are these bears coming from?

“These are likely young dispersing males from the Occidental or Bodega Bay regions, looking for a range to call home,” says Peter Barto, a Marin-based naturalist and member of the North Bay Bear Collaborative (NBBC). “Although Marin and California were historically grizzly bear habitat, the bears we have here are American black bears, and our group is trying to see if a resident population is establishing itself in the county.” In July 2022, Barto, who is also a part of the River Otter Ecology Project, captured on a trailcam he had set up for the group footage of two young bears playing in a creek within the Mt. Tam watershed.

So how many bears are there in the county? The NBBC guesses there are at least four, basing it on the various sightings and bear descriptions from different parts of Marin over the last couple years. Here are some things to consider as these new inhabitants become more common. 

  • The best way to scare them off? Make a lot of noise, and don’t come between a mother and her cubs.
  • Mind your trash. Keep your bins securely stowed away before garbage pickup to not tempt bears — and other animals.
  • American black bears can be brown! Many shades of brown, in fact.
  • Black bears are not obligate carnivores like mountain lions and do not necessarily prey on other animals, although they will sometimes catch and feed on small mammals as well as scavenge on dead animals. Their diet mostly consists of berries, insects, roots and other plants.
Marin, Black Bear
Photo by Peter Barto

You can learn more about black bears and how to reduce conflict when sharing the area with them at the North Bay Bear Collaborative’s website.

Kasia Pawlowska

Kasia Pawlowska loves words. A native of Poland, Kasia moved to the States when she was seven. The San Francisco State University creative writing graduate went on to write for publications like the San Francisco Bay Guardian and KQED Arts among others prior to joining the Marin Magazine staff. Topics Kasia has covered include traveltrendsmushroom hunting, an award-winning series on social media addiction and loads of other random things. When she’s not busy blogging or researching and writing articles, she’s either at home writing postcards and reading or going to shows. Recently, Kasia has been trying to branch out and diversify, ie: use different emojis. Her quest for the perfect chip is never-ending.