Sheriff identifies cub theft suspects
It looks like it was an inside job.
An El Dorado County Animal Control employee and her husband have been cited for allegedly stealing a dead bear cub from an unlocked animal control storage freezer.
Animal Control Officer Ruth Lavern Cecchettini-Hughes, 56, and her husband Rick Martin Hughes, 41, are facing misdemeanor charges and could be fined $1,000 and/or be sentenced to six months in jail if they are found guilty of the crime.
The cub was found dead Dec. 2 alongside Emerald Bay Road near Taylor Creek. Deputies reported it had been hit and killed by a vehicle. El Dorado County Animal Control picked up the carcass and placed it in a storage freezer where it was to be kept for several days until a Sparks rendering company retrieved it. Two days later the dead cub was reported missing by Animal Control Officer Douglas Petri.
An anonymous tip led California Department of Fish and Game to the carcass and the couple. The Hughes were ticketed for the crime Dec. 9.
The Hughes reportedly told Fish and Game Warden Dave Bezzone that they took the 80- to 100-pound cub carcass to make a rug from its hide, but got nervous because of newspaper articles about the carcass and dumped it.
Bezzone said the bear’s body was found near the Truckee River in Christmas Valley and its hide was thrown over a bank on State Route 89 south of Grass Lake Road.
It is still unclear whether the dead cub was a member of a family of bears that broke into 15 homes at Spring Creek Tract earlier in the fall. Nov. 5 was the last time a mother and her three cubs ransacked a house in the area.
“Dave (Bezzone) saw the hide and said it was brown,” said Darrell Stevenson, game warden in charge of tracking the bears. “The cubs (involved in the break ins) I saw are brown in color but unless there’s a distinct mark they all kind of look the same. But that’s in the general area so it is possible.”
Fish and Game set a trap and issued several depredation permits, 60-day licenses which allow homeowners to kill offending animals, but failed to catch any of the bears. Stevenson said that after someone sabotaged the trap he set, bears broke into one house three times.
“The problem is they don’t stop,” he said. “Once they learn a source of food they continue. They go right to it. They like chocolate and soda pop, anything sweet.”
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