Nez Perce bear’s fate hangs in the balance |

Nez Perce bear’s fate hangs in the balance

Rob Bhatt

Although it may seem like an act of humanity, feeding wild animals is just about the worst thing a person can do to them, says Dr. Pam Swift, a veterinarian with the California Department of Fish and Game.

“You are literally killing them with kindness,” she said.

Swift made the comments Tuesday during a discussion of the fate of a bear trapped last week near Nez Perce Drive off North Upper Truckee Road.

The animal remains alive in a Sacramento area Fish and Game facility under observation.

The bear is being checked for disease. Fish and Game officials said the bear is likely to be euthanized, although a time has not yet been set.

“It’s really sad,” said Linda Ingram, who lives in the neighborhood the bear used to visit. “We moved into their place, and now (bears) have no place to go.”

Ingram said the bear had been visiting their neighborhood for the past three years. She believes a resident on nearby Tehama Drive was leaving food out for the bear, a situation that contributed to the animal’s pending fate. She also said some neighbors leave garbage outside their houses for days before trash is collected. This attracts bears and other wildlife to the neighborhood to rummage for easily found food.

Trappers were called to Nez Perce Drive last week when the bear was found in a resident’s garage and later eating dog food from a bag it had ripped open.

The bear disregarded Fish and Game officers’ efforts to shoo it away.

Wildlife experts consider a bear unafraid of people to be a threat to public safety.

Although the bear on Nez Perce had never been known to attack people or pets, the threat of attack was the main reason why the animal was trapped.

Animals considered a public safety risk are often killed immediately. However, Fish and Game officials ordered the Nez Perce bear brought in for observation.

The animal has been determined to have a heart murmur. What was originally thought to be a wound on its back was later determined to be splattered paint, possibly the result of a paint ball gun fired at the animal.

The bear is believed to be fully mature, roughly 4 to 5 years old, about 200 pounds and between 5 and 6 feet tall.

Relocating the bear is virtually out of the question, said Dr. Swift. A nuisance bear in one area is likely to repeat behavioral patterns in a new location in the wild.

Some bears that have been relocated to the wild have shown up in their original locations, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to get back to their original domain.

In some cases, a relocated bear may end up getting killed by other bears, which tend to be territorial animals, Swift said.

Options to place the bear in captivity are also limited.

“All the spaces have been taken up,” Swift said. “There is no shortage of bears in zoos. We’ve been successful in placing a lot of bears, but it’s difficult to find good placement for older bears.”

Younger bears tend to adapt better to new locations in the wild or in captivity.

A facility in the state of Washington has had a roughly 50 percent success rate relocating orphaned or lost cubs in the wilderness, Swift said. Meanwhile, older bears used to living in the wild are less able to adapt to living in cages than cubs.

The Nez Perce bear is in the same facility where a younger bear was brought more than a year ago when its mother was killed after being tagged a nuisance bear. Swift said Fish and Game officials have still not been able to find a new home for the younger bear.

“We (Fish and Game officials) all love bears, and we all love mountain lions,” Swift added. “That’s why we work with wildlife. Unfortunately, there are some decisions that have to be made, and we have to lean toward public safety. A bear that loses its fear of humans is a safety risk.”

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors last week made it unlawful to feed wild animals. Wildlife experts and residents like Ingram are hopeful the new law may help grab people’s attention on the dangers that can be the result of well-intentioned actions.

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