Bear shooter says he was in fear for his life | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Bear shooter says he was in fear for his life

Adam Jensen

As the state continues an investigation into the shooting of a black bear in South Lake Tahoe last month, the man who pulled the trigger says he did so in self-defense.

Danny Lukins, the 59-year-old president of Lukins Brothers Water Co. and a South Lake Tahoe resident, said he was in bed on the night of July 31 when he heard a bear rummaging through a neighbor’s garbage bin near the end of his driveway.

It was the second time he had heard the bear that night.

And just like the first time he heard the activity, he grabbed two clips of ammunition, his unloaded .358 rifle and went outside, not expecting to use the firearm, Lukins said.

“I wasn’t anticipating getting close to the bear,” he said Monday.

As he cleaned up the garbage, he spotted the bear in his flashlight about 70 feet away. He yelled at the bear to scare it away, but it charged at him for 10 to 15 feet, then stopped, Lukins said.

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He then hurriedly loaded a clip into the rifle, and the bear charged a second time, Lukins said. He was able to squeeze off one round as the bear charged at him at full speed, Lukins said.

“I was definitely in fear for my life,” Lukins said.

The bear was within 20 feet when he shot it, Lukins said.

The bullet hit the animal in the head, causing it to spin around and flee into the forest.

Lukins then called 911.

Several police responded, followed a blood trail and used several police dogs to try to locate the wounded bear, but the search proved unsuccessful.

Lukins said he had only seconds to act during the incident and never has experienced such a rapidly aggressive bear during hundreds of encounters.

Lukins’ own trash cans were full of cardboard that night, and he said he doesn’t put out food waste until the morning.

The neighbor’s garbage had food waste in it, and it is customary for residents of the neighborhood to clean up each other’s garbage when wildlife get into it, Lukins said.

Some South Shore residents, as well as bear advocates, have been angered by the shooting.

South Lake Tahoe resident Patricia Ardavany said the incident was “outrageous” and Lukins could have easily injured surrounding residents.

“I don’t think he has any right whatsoever to go shooting around town,” Ardavany said.

BEAR League Executive Director Ann Bryant called the incident “stupid” and “immoral.”

The bear advocate also questions Lukins’ account of the incident. “He told all of us the bear did not pursue him,” Bryant said.

Lukins denied making such a statement.

Personnel from the California Department of Fish and Game have taken the lead on an inquiry into the incident.

“This is an active investigation,” said Fish and Game spokesman Kyle Orr. “The department of Fish and Game is in the process of developing a formal complaint.”

Orr declined to give details of the complaint.

The El Dorado County District Attorney’s office will review Fish and Game’s findings to determine whether any laws were broken during the incident.

“(The Department of Fish and Game) will investigate, and once they conclude, we’ll review it for applicability,” said Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe.

Uthe could see Fish and Game’s findings as soon as this week.