Last week the internet with buzzing with the news that two tornadoes touched down in Brooklyn, NY and a fire tornado was spotted in Brazil. Though local weatherman Howard Scheckter hasn’t reported any “weather related” tornadoes in Mammoth, the Mammoth Lakes Council Wildlife Subcommittee meeting experienced what can best be described as a “bear-nado” at its Sept. 21 meeting.
*Author’s Note: Bear-nado, according to the Sheet dictionary, is defined as “a localized and violently destructive bear-induced storm, occurring over land and characterized by shouting and finger pointing to the extent it resembles a funnel shaped cloud extending toward the ground.”
Town Council Members John Eastman and Skip Harvey were not present, leaving the remaining members of the Subcommittee to grin and bear the public lashing. The absence of said council members resulted in the majority of the meeting’s agenda items being pushed back. Only public comment and a brief discussion on wildlife signage took place. “I don’t feel comfortable going forward,” said Town Manager and Subcommittee member Rob Clark as the committee decided to push the other agenda items to next week.
Agenda items pushed to next week included a review of the Wildlife Specialist’s contract, special event food vendor permit language regarding appropriate food storage and an update on Firearm Usage by Wildlife Specialist on Forest Service Lands. However it was painfully obvious the majority of locals were in attendance to discuss the execution of last week’s “Bear Burglar” in the Lakes Basin.
So without hesitation the public let them have it. Comments were a fairly even mix of complaints and praise. One summer resident who owns a cabin in the Lake’s Basin area applauded the Town for the displacement of the bear, “I want to thank the town and Steve for eliminating the bear problem,” said the resident, “it was a painful experience.”
However it wasn’t all hugs and handshakes as local resident Leigh Gaasch, called out the Town on a multitude of levels, “I don’t believe in hazing, it just makes the bear go somewhere else. We need help. We‘re all in this together, and we need to educate educate educate. ” Gaasch went on to lambast Bear-With-Us, questioning whether the organization is more about politics than education while another resident complained about the $500 fee that was charged to the homeowners association for the depredation of the bear.
Some residents, like Marianne O’Connor of Bear-With-Us came prepared with solutions. She proposed a draft for a vendor regulation checklist, requiring vendors to do things like getting a card signed by an authority in order leave the site once they’ve been inspected. O’Connor also went on to address Gaasch’s statement by stating, “We have limited funding. I put my own money into [BearWithUs]. So statements like that hurt, especially when we‘re trying so hard.”
Gaye Mueller, Director of the Mammoth Lakes Arts Festival commented that this has been the worst year for bears (not just for her event), stating they have been acting more “nosey and pesky” than usual. Mueller claimed the bears were spotted in the late afternoon during the Labor Day Arts Festival (where the visiting artist was bit) waiting at the Sierra Star Golf Course to come over and snoop around. “The little bear that got the artist was a fluke,” Mueller said.
The “bear-nado” really came to a climax when the meeting came to adjournment. Mammoth Lakes Police Department Sergeant Karen Smart was describing the demise of the Lakes Basin bear to a group of homeowners and a listening-in/disgruntled resident confronted the group claiming she didn’t want to hear the details of the bear’s death and also that the discussion was inappropriate. “That bear broke into our home!” said one homeowner. “Then don’t live in the mountains,” claimed the offended local.
Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles made no comment during the meeting, other than to apologize to the public for not commenting on the above agenda items or public comments, as he felt it was inappropriate seeing as the entire committee was not present.
The next Wildlife Subcommittee meeting will be held in Suite Z on Sept. 29