A Wildlife Subcommittee meeting is scheduled for today, Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. in Suite Z. While not on the agenda this bear may be part of the discussion. (Photo: Tom Keller)
In the Mammoth Lakes Basin, a female bear, according to Town Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles, broke into at least seven homes within 48 hours last week, causing alarm among cabin owners. On Sunday, Sept. 6, Searles claimed the same bear was at it again and had broken into another cabin.
On Saturday afternoon, Sept. 5, several hours before the bear incident at Sam’s Woodsite, which was with a completely unrelated bear according to Searles, he met with the Crystal Crag Water & Development Association in the Lakes Basin. Concerned Lake Mary cabin owners attended, only to hear from Searles that he would not be able to aid them in combating the bear currently raiding their homes.
Searles called it a jurisdictional issue. Since he is not allowed to do his work in his usual fashion on Forest Service property, his “hands are tied” when it comes to disciplining the bears in that jurisdiction.
“There is a hierarchy of command that goes the Feds, the State, DFG, the county, the town, and then me,” Searles explained. Searles later told The Sheet that there is no official law or policy that prevents him from doing his work. What is holding him back is a three-page letter from Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch. Mammoth Lakes Police Sergeant Karen Smart said the only thing Searles is not allowed to do on Forest Service land, according to federal regulations, is discharge a firearm because he is not a sworn law enforcement officer.
Searles suggested the cabin owners in the Lakes Basin stock themselves with pepper spray, air horns, mousetraps, golf balls and rocks to scare the bear away themselves in a non-lethal manner. The bear has been aggressive enough to rip shutters off windows and break through the glass in order to get inside cabins.
“It is very predictable that the bear will be back on the same loop,” Searles explained. “The bear has received more rewards than it has spankings and I’m afraid it may not be able to be turned around.”
Searles claimed he and the MLPD were ready to shoot the “bad” bear, which is very dark at its head,then gets blonder at its back end and has a triangular marking on its chest, at the end of last week when he and his camera crew, as well a few MLPD officers arrived on scene as the bear was breaking into a cabin.
“If we are not going to be able to discipline the bear and it is causing this much property damage then I agree it needs to be put down,” Searles said.
According to Searles, they called their superior officers for the green light. Their superior officers contacted Interim Police Chief Dan Watson and Deputy District Ranger Mike Schlafmann at the Forest Service for approval. Searles said he and the officers were told to stand down and leave the scene. According to Searles there was a Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer, or LEO, at the scene documenting the incident but not taking any action. Searles claimed the LEO left while the bear was still on scene.
Calls to Schlafmann and Mammoth Deputy District Ranger Jon Regelbrugge had not been returned at the time of this posting.
According to Searles, the Department of Fish and Game should be arriving in the next few days to set traps for the problem bear.
A Wildlife Subcommittee meeting is scheduled for today, Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. in Suite Z. Sergeant Smart thought these matters might be discussed at that meeting even though, according to her, they are not currently on the agenda.Share Email This Post