A black bear became stuck in a restroom at Nojoqui Falls Park near Gaviota Monday night, causing damage before it finally escaped.
“He opened the door himself to go in, and then locked it somehow behind him,” Kathleen Ricci, a park host, posted on Facebook Tuesday morning about the 8 p.m. incident.
Pictures show the bear in the tiny window at least eight feet off the ground, perched atop the stall doors.
“Man, this bear had some amazing balance,” she told Noozhawk..
The animal eventually clawed and chewed his way out through the metal mesh window screen to escape, as she and law enforcement officers watched.
The bear, believed to be a male and approximately 400 pounds, made its escape before the humans had to intervene, she added.
She said she was alerted to the bear’s presence by the noise created when it smashed around the restroom, and suspected it was anything from a raccoon to a bear.
“He made a mess in that bathroom,” she told Noozhawk.
Through the incident, the bear did not make any verbal noises, she added.
“He was in no hurry to leave,” she said, adding that he ran up a tree, came back down, and beat up a trash can before finally departing the area.
“It was exciting,” she added.
The bear sighting is the latest incident in the Gaviota area.
“Usually, it seems like we have more problems in the springtime, but for whatever reason we’re having problems in the Gaviota area,” said Lt. Jamie Dostal from California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Typically, Fish and Wildlife officers will employ hazing techniques — making noise or firing rubber bullets — to encourage the bear to stay away.
The bear’s restroom scare could have unintentionally provided a deterrence.
“That might be enough to make it not want to come there again,” Dostal said.
People who encounter a bear should make loud noises and make themselves look big while retreating to a safe place, Dostal said.
People should avoiding running away since that could trigger the bear’s instinct, he added.
“Typically, the bears will usually leave the area,” he added.
Extra precautions should be taken around cubs since mother bears are extremely protective.
California is home to black bears, which despite the name come in a variety of colors, including cinnamon brown.
Several encounters, including two bears struck and killed by vehicles on Highway 101, have been reported in recent months in Santa Barbara County.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.