Agencies will evaluate bear killings |

Agencies will evaluate bear killings

Phone calls to the BEAR League have been nonstop since Monday when two bears cubs and their mother were killed on U.S. Forest Service land north of Camp Richardson.

“I can’t even count; it rings constantly. Sometimes I have two or three people on hold,” said Ann Bryant, executive director of the league, based on the West Shore at Homewood. “People are calling — crying and yelling. Everybody wants to do something.”

A meeting is planned today between the Forest Service and the California Department of Fish and Game warden who issued a permit that allowed a trap to be set next to a Spring Creek cabin.

“We do have jurisdiction over wildlife in the state of California,” said Darrell Stevenson, the warden. “But we’re going to go over that.

“I don’t want to just go out and issue depredation permits. I know I’ve been accused of that. I investigate all break-ins.”

Stevenson issued a permit to John and Kay Henderson of South Lake Tahoe last week after bears broke through their bolted back door, trashed the kitchen and defecated in the living room and bathroom.

Despite a Forest Service recommendation to remove all food from cabins when they are unoccupied, the Hendersons kept staples like cereal and syrup in the cabin.

“We’ve received some very unpleasant phone calls, but we’re hanging in there,” said Kay Henderson. “I think we’re still very concerned about what we perceive as an increasing population of bears and increasing aggressiveness.”

Henderson said they are going to better secure both doors to their cabin and use a food locker to keep their food, which came as advice from the Forest Service.

“We have removed all of our food and plan to purchase a food locker,” Henderson said. “A bear may break in but their (behavior) won’t be reinforced because they can’t get to the food.”

Taking all the food out of their cabin each time a family member or friend leaves the cabin is not realistic because the Hendersons share the cabin with a number of people in their family and use it as overflow housing, she said.

“The food locker makes it practical to follow the directive of the Forest Service,” Henderson said. “We’re really encouraged. And I think the doors will be really helpful.”

According to Bryant, several residents plan to take legal action against Fish and Game for issuing the permit. The BEAR League does not plan to file a lawsuit but instead help guide those who do file one, Bryant said.

“Several laws were broken,” Byrant said. “Every effort must be made to prevent the problem from recurring before they issue a permit … it’s Forest Service land; the Forest Service should have been notified before that permit was issued.”

The policy of Fish and Game is to issue a kill permit to a homeowner if there is property damage, such as a break-in, or if public safety is threatened. The agency said it broke no laws when it issued the permit.

“We don’t have to notify anybody before the permit is issued,” said Patrick Foy, spokesman at Fish and Game. “It’s just not necessary. We manage fish and wildlife for the state.

“To explain why a depredation permit was issued and bears have to be killed — it’s the worst part of my job. People think I don’t love bears. I devote my life to wildlife biology. I do.”

The two cubs were killed by the two trappers, one employed by the federal government, the other by El Dorado County Department of Agriculture, because Fish and Game does not relocate bears.

Foy said he’s gotten six calls about the incident at Spring Creek and most people want to know why the bears weren’t captured and released in the wilderness.

“That’s one thing we’ve done a hundred times before and learned through trial and error that it doesn’t work,” Foy said. “Bears are very smart. Once they learn that humans (who don’t take proper measures to secure food) are a source of food, they never forget that. We can take them 80 miles away and they’ll end up back in the same place.”

But there is another reason Fish and Game doesn’t tranquilize bears and transport them outside the basin.

“When the public thinks relocating bears is the solution, they don’t take the necessary action to prevent the problem in the first place,” Foy said.

To help educate Spring Creek tract residents about bears, a neighbor is sending them each a copy of Tuesday’s Tahoe Daily Tribune to illustrate what can happen to bears.

Even if a resident on the California side of the basin experiences a minor incident with a bear, Fish and Game wants to be contacted so it can investigate. Often people fail to report things because they fear harassment from residents, Stevenson said. Fish and Game can be reached at (916) 445-0045.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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