from The Los Angeles Times via MSN

As hungry bears awaken from hibernation, a California mountain village braces for invasion

by Louis Sahagún

Led by a sense of smell 100 times keener than that of humans, the predators have crashed through windows, ripped tiles off roofs and torn solid wood doors off their hinges to get at leftover pizza in a refrigerator.

They have also defecated on counters, furniture and floors as a “calling card,” officials say.

In a region of Southern California that wildlife authorities call a human-black bear conflict zone, the impending arrival of spring in this small mountain village is met with dread and fear as the hungry giants emerge from their winter torpor to search for food.

“Bears are a major problem here — and it’s getting worse,” said Patrice Stimpson, patrol chief of Pine Mountain Club — a community of some 2,800 residents in the San Emigdio Mountains, about 75 miles north of Los Angeles.

“They’ve caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage,” Stimpson said. “Last year, a house caught fire after a bear climbed onto the gas stove and turned on the burners. A few cars were nearly totaled by bears rummaging for crushed cookies between the seats.”

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