Six species of the cat family are known from Rancho La Brea. They comprise two main groups, the machairodonts (sabertoothed cats) and the true cats. The extinct sabertoothed cat (Smilodon fatalis) is probably the most well known and is California's state fossil. At least 2,000 individuals of Smilodon are represented by over 130,000 specimens. The distantly related scimitar cat (Homotherium serum) is very rare and known only from a few teeth and several metapodials. The American lion (Panthera atrox) is the most common of the true cats with about 80 individuals recovered, two-thirds of which are males. Other cats include the puma (Felis concolor), the lynx (F. rufus), the jaguar (F. onca), and a domestic cat. It is possible that the American cheetah (Miracinonyx inexpectatus) was also in the area at the end of the Pleistocene although no specimen has yet been identified from Rancho La Brea.
Three species of bear are known from Rancho La Brea. The extinct giant short-faced bear (Arctodus simus), represented by 30 plus individuals, is both the largest and most common species recovered. Thus far, at least 700 elements have been identified. The short-faced bear had an extensive North American distribution ranging from the Yukon to Texas. Its closest living relative is the spectacled bear that lives in the Andes. Possibly the largest predator of the Ice Age, the male short-faced bear may have weighed up to 1,800 pounds and stood five feet at the shoulder. Sexual dimorphism is very evident with females being at least 25 percent smaller than the males. The black bear (Ursus americanus) and the grizzly bear (U. arctos) are restricted to the younger deposits and are rare.
Big cats were trapped in the sticky tar trap by the thousands. 30 short-faced bears and even less black bears and grizzly bears were thus trapped in the tar pits. Why?
Intelligence. A bear has the ability of perception. Through observation of the situation, a bear can ascertain the danger and calculate the risk.