LA, say hello to BB-12 — the black bear who’s moved to Santa Monica

If spotted, keep your distance from BB-12. So far, he hasn’t been spotted in any residential areas. Photo courtesy of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Los Angeles — a new bachelor has moved into town. He’s a black bear named BB-12, and he's been photographed lumbering around Malibu Creek State Park and in Point Mugu State Park. But Black bears aren’t native to Southern California. So where did he come from? 

BB-12 was first spotted back in 2021, when residents snapped photos of the elusive bear. Soon, he caught the attention of local wildlife officials when pictures landed on Reddit, says Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

“It was funny because it was just a picture of a bear. And we didn't know where it was. We were actually able to figure it out just from the background that it was down there in Sycamore Canyon,“ Riley tells KCRW.

Riley was part of the team that captured and radio-collared BB-12 for observation back in April. Initially, they were on the hunt for a mountain lion and set out animal bait. When that didn’t work, a team member opted to put out some donuts. 

Donuts were enough to entice BB-12 out of hiding in April. Photo courtesy of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

When they aren’t snacking on fried rounds of confectionery goodness, Riley says black bears have a regular diet of fruit and grubs, as well as live and dead prey. 

Weighing in at 210 pounds, the bear is estimated to be 3-4 years old. But much is still unknown about how black bears live in Southern California.

Riley says it's likely BB-12 came from the Santa Susana Mountains — meaning a long trek to reach Santa Monica. 

“He at least had to cross the 101 [freeway.] And he might well have crossed 118. But either way, he would have had to cross through a bunch of agricultural areas over there,” Riley explains. 

Black bears have been in Southern California for decades. The animals were first shipped to local mountains in the 1930s from Yosemite National Park.

What to do if you run into BB-12

So far, there have been no residential sightings of the new bear — meaning no conflicts with people.

Riley says the best course of action is to avoid him, as well as to give him some distance if spotted. And under no circumstances should you feed him. 



  • Seth Riley - National Park Service, Santa Monica