Rogue bear at large
ALPINE MEADOWS – The problem bear in an Alpine Meadows subdivision continues to elude capture, dividing a community and prompting a Sheriff’s Department investigation into tampering with a federal trap.
A bear was successfully caged in the barrel-shaped trap last Sunday, but was freed before the trapper arrived to retrieve the bear. The Placer County Sheriff’s Office would not release the name of the alleged tamperer but said that an investigation is under way.
This was the first time the trap, which was set 11 days ago, had caught a bear. This was not the first time the trap had been tampered with however. Both BEAR League director Ann Bryant and California Department of Fish and Game spokesman Patrick Foy said that the trap was being sprung nightly.
“Somebody kept springing the trap to the point where it was basically not effective,” Foy said.
Fish and Game issued a depredation permit 11 days ago for a problem bear in the Bear Creek subdivision at the top of Alpine Meadows after it repeatedly broke into a resident’s home. A second depredation permit was issued to a Bear Creek resident last week after the bear broke into the resident’s home.
Following the second permit, Fish and Game moved the trap to the home of Elvira Mishkin, in hopes of trapping the bear before the “Monkey-Wrencher” could find the trap in its new location.
“Whoever was springing the trap found it immediately,” Bryant said.
The trap continues to divide the community of Bear Creek and Alpine Meadows. Peter and Gisela Turner, who requested the original depredation permit and on whose property the trap was originally set, refused to talk to the Tahoe World. Letters and phone calls have poured into the Tahoe World and the Tribune since the issue was first reported.
Critics of the plans to capture the bear, which Foy said will almost certainly be killed, are saying that human error led to this situation and that this is the bear’s home just as much as it is home to humans.
“Don’t live in Bear Creek if you can’t live with the animals that live here,” 20-year Bear Creek resident Hazel Court Taylor said. “I understand people have been broken into but in most cases it’s their own fault.”
On the other side residents in favor of removing the problem bear are saying that it presents a danger to residents.
“It’s a matter of human safety,” said Betty Cutten, an Alpine Meadows resident since 1972. “When you have a rogue bear in a community like we have, with the number of children we have in this community, who will be standing out on corners as of Monday next week and trudging home at five o’clock. I don’t want to see that rogue bear in our valley.”
Bryant has been working on a solution that would save the bear’s life while still addressing the concerns of residents. Her proposed solution, which she will present to the meeting of the joint homeowners associations at Alpine Meadows Saturday, would be to raise the necessary money to have this bear sent to a refuge in Colorado.
“We need to find a workable solution where everybody wins,” Bryant said. “To me this solution is absolutely perfect. We’ll just have to have some cooperation here where we haven’t had any before.”
Bryant said she had already spoken with the president of the Bear Creek Homeowners Association, Linda Gordon, and had received Gordon’s support. However Gordon said she had not yet heard Bryant’s exact proposal and was waiting until Saturday to make her decision.
“We’ve invited them to offer ways that we can work together to save bears,” Gordon said. “I don’t know what they’re going to propose. I think [the BEAR League] has a plan but we’re holding tight to see what they propose to us.”
Foy said that a proposal to relocate or rehabilitate the problem bear was unlikely to be approved at Fish and Game.
“This bear is not a candidate for rehab,” Foy said. “It has repeatedly gone into persons’ homes. There’s just no way that fits into the characteristics of a bear that is able to be rehabilitated.”
Foy also addressed reports from the BEAR League that the problem two-and-a-half-year-old black bear is deaf. He said that survival rates among bears born in the wild with physical defects, such as deafness, is very low.
“I’d say it is very unlikely that this bear is deaf,” Foy said.
Critics of depredation permits have repeatedly argued that such permits do not target a specific bear. Rather they authorize the killing of any bear that is caught, possibly leading to the execution of multiple bears.
Defending the person who freed the trapped bear Sunday, Bryant said that the wrong bear had been trapped and that the bear’s liberator could not in good conscience have allowed the bear to remain in the trap.
This is the first time a bear depredation permit has been issued in Placer County in two years and the first time that one has been issued in Alpine Meadows.
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