Bear cubs shot by game warden

This article is a follow-up to this August 8 article:



More details in the deaths of the sow and cubs on Tuesday, July 29, were made public this week by officials at California Department of Fish and Wildlife. In a conference call on Monday, Greg Gerstenberg, senior wildlife biologist with the CDFW, confirmed that it was the department’s associate biologist from Visalia who shot the orphaned cubs.


CDFW policy

“The department has provisions for orphaned cubs like these two that were under 50 pounds,” Gerstenberg said. “If the sow had been hit by a car, then the cubs would have been transported to a rehabilitation facility at Lake Tahoe. Then when they reach a certain size they could be released back into the wild where they had been orphaned.”

But in the case where the mother had been bringing her cubs along while depredating local bird coops, Gerstenberg said, the cubs are already imprinted by the behavior and typically are destroyed. 

“The goal is to protect people’s property and have wild bears,” Gerstenberg said. “Each depredation is investigated on a case-by-case basis.”

In the killing of these three bears, shortly after the property owner requested the depredation permit, a game warden was dispatched to Three Rivers to investigate. Each permit requires a site visit, Gerstenberg said.

“What we try to do is to determine if the damage can be alleviated without taking the life of the bear,” Gerstenberg said. “How much monetary damage has been done is a factor in the determination.”       

Gerstenberg said these bear encounters occur frequently in communities like Three Rivers that exist adjacent to the wildland. There is a progression as an animal first begins to wander where people live and then becomes habituated to pet/bird food and garbage, then loses their instinct to fear humans and becomes a nuisance.

If the behavior is not stopped, the bear will often damage property to continue to obtain these calorie-dense, yet easy food sources.          

“The bear was attracted in the first place because people have not been diligent in taking care of their garbage,” Gerstenberg said. “The ones who often suffer the most damage are not the ones who attracted the bears in the first place.” 


It’s a garbage problem

If Three Rivers is going to deal with this issue then the community must recognize that people are the problem, not the bears, Gerstenberg said. The root of the problem is trash, and Isaac Kulikoff, general manager at Mid Valley Disposal, said dealing with bears that get into the company’s garbage containers is a recurring problem.

“We deal with the toppled containers every year at this time of the season,” Kulikoff said. “Because of the state regulations we have less options available as to what equipment we can use but we certainly want to do everything possible to prevent bears from getting into the garbage.”

Kulikoff said he has instructed the local driver to clean up the mess when necessary but would certainly like to see him devote less time to trash cleanup. 

“Most of the bear activity occurs in the area east and north of Three Rivers Chevron,” Kulikoff said. “Dealing with the impact of bears comes with the territory.”

Kulikoff said he encourages his Three Rivers customers to do whatever is necessary to keep the bears out of the garbage. Chains wrapped through the lid and receptacle is one method that has been effective.

Just be certain to remove or open and refasten the chain so the driver can dump the can, but not chain, Kulikoff said.

In a couple of months the bears will be gone and for the time being, it will end the problem. But the long-term solution for bears and people is reaching community consensus, and in certain situations, drafting city or county ordinances. The upcoming Town Hall meeting on Monday, Sept. 8, tentatively scheduled for the Three Rivers Memorial Building at 7 p.m., will feature a presentation by CDFW and National Park Service experts that will define the issues and explore options.

“It’s normal to see bears in Three Rivers, especially this time of year, and that’s when depredation issues peak,” Gerstenberg said. “It’s a good time for the community to come together to ensure these bears have the best chance to remain in the wild and do what bears instinctively do.” 

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