Death of bear prompts a call for action


According to the reaction to an incident that occurred last week and was told in “Loaded for Bear” (Telling It Like It Is, November 14, 2014), Three Rivers residents have definite opinions about bears in the community. 

In this instance, a bear died from multiple gunshots on Wednesday, Nov. 12. Evan King, California Department Fish and Wildlife biologist in the Visalia office, who was informed of the killing that same day (Nov. 12), notified Danny Gammons, wildlife biologist at Sequoia National Park, of the bear incident on Tuesday, Nov. 18.  

Gammons was reportedly provided with a photo of a small silver ear tag (one inch by one-quarter of an inch) with the number 410. According to park records, this indicates that the dead bear was previously tagged after an incident at Dorst Creek Campground in September 2009.

In fact, it was Gammons and a park crew who tagged the bear, then an eight-month-old cub, after the juvenile male and his mother helped themselves to marshmallows, potato chips, bacon, steaks, and more from a food storage locker left open overnight by a group of 40 campers. As a result, both bears were tagged September 1, 2009, and that was the beginning of the end.

According to information provided by Michelle Fidler, acting public information officer at Sequoia-Kings Canyon, in the summer of 2010, both bear #410 and bear #855, the cub’s mother, were seen near each other and continued their undesirable behavior despite being hazed multiple times. Bear #410 was captured and released three times in July 2010. On the last occasion, #410 weighed 75 pounds. 

The mother bear was captured and destroyed by the National Park Service on August 5, 2010. Her cub was considered for destruction at that time, but the parks’ Bear Management Committee decided to wait and see if his behavior would change or if he would disperse after his mother’s death. 

Bear #410 did not immediately disperse. The last documented incident in Sequoia in which #410 was involved occurred September 5, 2010. When asked if it is possible that the dead bear in Three Rivers was not #410, the NPS spokesperson responded no.

Securing food, trash, and birds— Three Rivers is easy pickings for bears and other wildlife to access garbage, human food, pet food, and flimsy bird coops. It will take community action, education, and awareness to eliminate these temptations. Since the last depredation of bears on Dinely Drive in July 2014, more residents began securing their trash but 100 percent compliance is needed to eliminate access by wildlife.

Because of Three Rivers’s proximity to the local national parks, the community must rely on several agencies — most notably the National Park Service — and the waste management vendor to assist in obtaining a bear-proof trash container system similar to the one employed in the neighboring parks.

As to chicken enclosures, this could be addressed through the Three Rivers Community Plan and specialized building permits, or considered whether chickens are even appropriate at all in this wildland interface.

Discharging a firearm— When the Tulare County Sheriff's Department was asked about the discharge of firearms in Three Rivers, Megan Rapozo, TCSD public information officer, responded by quoting California Penal Code 246.3:

(a) Except as otherwise authorized by law, any person who willfully discharges a firearm in a grossly negligent manner which could result in injury or death to a person is guilty of a public offense and shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by

imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

(b) Except as otherwise authorized by law, any person who willfully discharges a BB device in a grossly negligent manner which could result in injury or death to a person is guilty of a public offense and shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year.

(c) As used in this section, "BB device" means any instrument that expels a projectile, such as a BB or a pellet, through the force of air pressure, gas pressure, or spring action.

But, she added, this is an issue Fish and Wildlife "should respond to."

When The Kaweah Commonwealth asked CDFW what government agency has jurisdiction to determine if any laws were broken, Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW communications manager, Office of Education and Outreach responded: "The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has the jurisdiction to determine if any laws were broken. We have examined this situation and determined that no illegal actions were taken."

CDFW policy According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, as transmitted in a statement on Thursday, Nov. 20, by Macintyre: “Bears such as this one become a problem when humans leave garbage and other attractants [chicken coops] within their reach. Human carelessness is the root of the problem and deserves as much, if not more, attention than the end result.”

The CDFW answered a number of questions in the same correspondence related to the most recent incident.

“In summary, the bear was taken legally, by a hunter with tags during bear season, and the bear meat was appropriately harvested. The landowner was within his rights to allow this hunter to shoot the bear on his land and we have determined that no laws were broken by the landowner or the hunter,” the statement said.

The holder of the depredation permit might have given his proxy and permission to the hunter to shoot and kill the bear but the landowner where the bear was shot did not. Jim Barton, the landowner, maintains that he granted permission by phone for an officer of CDFW to enter his property to dispose of the bear. He was not updated when circumstances changed.

Here’s one significant point where the current CDFW policy enters a gray area and needs to be addressed. When a bear is wounded by a landowner with a depredation permit and the bear leaves, a CDFW officer must be required to respond in the interest of public safety and to mitigate potential disputes of other property owners who might seek another recourse for the wounded bear.

In the July 29 killing of the sow and her two cubs on Dinely, the landowner with the dep
redation permit stated that when he was pursuing a bear he had wounded, shots were fired back at him from an adjacent property.   

Those shots whizzing by his head in the dark, he claimed, persuaded him to wait until the sheriff and CDFW could be summoned to the scene. The law regulating the use of the depredation permit requires that CDFW be called within 24 hours of shooting and/or wounding a so-called problem bear.

The permit in the bear shooting on November 11 and 12 was issued on October 29 and was based upon the allegation that: “…the bear broke in the chicken coop and consumed at least four chickens.”

The permit can have up to four designated shooters. All must be licensed hunters over the age of 21. One is the person to whom the permit is issued and the other three can be chosen at the permittee’s discretion.    

According to CDFW, there are no depredation permits currently pending in Three Rivers.

Original report can be found here:

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