Speed kills and speeding kills bears. Proceed with caution in Three Rivers, especially when it’s dark. In the past 10 days, there have been reports received by The Kaweah Commonwealth of at least seven bears hit by motorists. On Tuesday, Nov. 10, two bears were struck on Sierra Drive in different locations.
What to do— If you hit a bear with your vehicle or see a dead or injured bear on or near a roadway, here is the protocol:
First, call the Tulare County Sheriff Department’s dispatcher at (559) 733-6218 and report the location. The dispatcher will notify the appropriate agency depending on location — Caltrans (state highway) or Tulare County road department (arterial roads). The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will also be contacted by the dispatcher.
Lt. Doug Barnhart of DFW said officers do not routinely handle roadkill but in the case of an injured bear, DFW is the agency that makes the determination if the bear is to be euthanized.
What not to do— It is a violation of state law for a private citizen to discharge a firearm on a state highway or county road even if the shooter has determined that killing the bear would be what’s best for the bear.
In addition, do not attempt to remove a wounded bear or deceased bear from the scene. A multi-agency policy is currently in the works that will allow area Native Americans to take possession of deceased bears as per the Religious Freedom Act of 1993.
Bears on the move— This epic story of all these bears in Three Rivers is turning a page to the next chapter. The Three Rivers bears are searching for more food sources because the local acorn crop is nearly exhausted.
Now more than ever it is imperative to lock up and store food and garbage properly. Some of the more intelligent bears are already entering barns and storage buildings to access livestock feed and bird seed.
One bear entered a South Fork house, prompting the resident to vacate the premises and call 911. By the time a Sheriff’s deputy and a Fish and Wildlife warden had arrived on the scene, the bear had departed.
According to Dave Graber, retired chief scientist of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, these bears will not generally become more aggressive.
“The bears that have acquired sufficient calories will likely head back up to the snow and hibernate,” Graber said. “The two, three, and four-year-old males won’t hibernate and will hang around town as long as food sources are plentiful.”
Dave also said that in the past bears came down from the parks during other drought years but not in these numbers.
“The bears that hibernate in the local mountains are likely to return in the future because now they know they have a backup food source in Three Rivers,” Dave said.
The Rough Fire and the fact that the black oaks produced so few acorns in the higher elevations are critical factors as to why so many bears found their way to Three Rivers, Graber said.
“It will be interesting to see what these bears do next,” he concluded.