HOMEWOOD, Calif. — State wildlife officials continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the illegal poaching of black bear last month at Lake Tahoe.
The bear, named “Sunny,” was the mascot of the Homewood-based BEAR League, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bear safety and awareness. Its carcass was found the morning of July 30 on a Homewood beach, according to previous reports, apparently shot in the back or backside.
According to a news release published Wednesday on the California Department of Fish and Game website, the investigating warden determined the bear was shot at close range.
“The type of injury sustained by the bear is indicative of a wound that would bleed severely, leaving obvious evidence at the location where it was shot,” according to the news release.
The warden thoroughly searched, but did not locate blood or evidence that a firearm was discharged on any of the properties surrounding the beach where the bear was found, according to Fish and Game.
The incident has angered many Tahoe residents, who've taken to Facebook and other social media to admonish the act and even wish death or other harm upon the suspected poacher.
The BEAR League's Facebook page in particular has been the site of hundreds of comments on the issue. The week of the incident, the nonprofit published a man's name, phone number and the address of his home in Homewood, a man who the group suspects was the shooter.
Another page, Lake Tahoe Wall of Shame, has actively supported the BEAR League's posts and also has been the site of much commentary on the issue. BEAR League Facebook page administrators have since asked residents to withhold judgment against the man, as the incident remains under investigation.
As of last week, the BEAR League began offering a reward for “information leading to the arrest of Sunny's killer,” based on funds it has raised. As of Saturday, the reward is more than $3,000. Rewards also are being offered by Fish and Game and the Humane Society of the United States, all totaling $6,500, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In its news release, Fish and Game urged residents to let state wardens handle the issue.
“... Rumors, false information and Internet postings that encourage citizens to take matters into their own hands have the potential to complicate this ongoing investigation,” the release reads.
Once the investigation wraps, a report will be submitted to the Placer County District Attorney for consideration.
“Residents of Homewood have every right to be outraged about this bear's death,” said Fish and Capt. Brian Naslund in a statement. “As much as we want to bring this poacher to justice, we cannot prove a poaching crime with hearsay and rumor.”
Anyone with information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of the shooter is encouraged to call Fish and Game's CalTIP at 888-334-2258. Callers may remain anonymous.