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Vandalism reported at home of bear killings

Megan Michelson

TAHOE CITY – Russell and Diane Tonda had just finished the cleanup of their West Shore vacation home after it had been damaged by a family of bears in January – the same bears that were killed by depredation permit on Feb. 4 – when they learned that more damage had been done. This time, however, the vandals were humans.

Diane estimated that $2,300 worth of damage had been done to their Chamberlands neighborhood home. Windows were smashed, fan blades broken, lighting fixtures torn from the walls, wine bottles broken over the kitchen counter and the cabinets that weren’t ruined by the bears were destroyed.

The wires and gas lines cut on their snowblower confirmed that the damage wasn’t done by bears.



The vandalism was discovered on Feb. 26 by a housekeeper and the Tondas reported the crime to the Placer County Sheriff’s Office last week. There are currently no suspects in the case, according to the sheriff’s deputies. However, deputies did tell the Tondas they would patrol the area more regularly in an effort to prevent more vandalism.

Ann Bryant, executive director of the BEAR League, said that after the Feb. 4 shootings of the mother bear and her two cubs she received hundreds of irate calls. Some of them threatened to do harm to the Tondas and their property.



“I told those people who threatened violence ‘Don’t you do it. It’s illegal and it’s a nasty thing to do. And besides I’ll get blamed,’ ” Bryant said.

She called the Tondas at their home in Granite Bay to warn them of the threats and suggested they hire a security company to patrol their home at night.

After hearing of the vandalism last week through Placer County District Attorney Chris Cattran, who is looking into the possibility of filing legal charges against the Tondas and the hunters they hired, Bryant said she was appalled and had no idea who committed the crimes.

“It’s not one of the BEAR League members. They would never do that,” Bryant said. “And if it is one of them, they will no longer be a BEAR League member.”

Bryant said she always encourages angry citizens to express themselves through controlled, sensible letters to the Department of Fish and Game rather than taking their frustration out on the people who filed for a depredation permit. However, she added that this type of vandalism is not uncommon.

“This happens a lot,” she said. “But what in the world could they be thinking this is going to accomplish?”

For the Tondas, the vandalism to their house was the final straw. Since the bears were killed, the Tondas have received dozens of phone calls and letters, a few offering support but many more voicing anger and disapproval. Few of the correspondents have identified themselves, Diane said.

The Tondas consulted an attorney regarding the verbal harassment but were told that First Amendment rights protected the callers’ free speech and that there was nothing they could legally do.

The Tondas normally use their second home twice a month during the winter so their five grandchildren can ski and spend nearly the entire summer. But now, Diane said she’s not so sure they’ll be back, adding that they’ve contemplated selling their home.

“I don’t think we’re going to come back. We’re scared to death to come to the area,” Diane said. “We’ll find somewhere else to go.”

In the meantime, they’re awaiting news on the progress of the criminal investigation of the vandalism of their home.

“Until we have a name or someone who saw something,” Diane said, “there’s nothing we can do.”


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