Battle over bears heats up once again at Lake Tahoe
RENO, Nev. — A Las Vegas man will ask a judge this week for a protective order against bear advocates at Lake Tahoe, saying they harassed him after he initiated efforts to trap a bear that damaged his vacation home.
William O’Donnell’s request for a protective order against the BEAR League, its founder Ann Bryant and four others will be considered at a hearing Wednesday in Incline Village Justice Court.
The former Republican state senator accuses bear defenders of making “nasty and somewhat veiled threats” against him, maintaining constant vigils outside his Incline Village home and interfering with the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s efforts to trap the black bear.
A bear has damaged his garage door three times over the last two-plus years, most recently in April. Earlier this month, wildlife officials failed to capture the bruin after setting a trap outside his home for several days.
O’Donnell is seeking a court order to keep bear advocates away from the trap and his home so the animal can be captured and he and his wife can live without fear.
“They’re a group of vigilantes trying to manage wildlife up there,” he told The Associated Press. “Absolutely, they marginalized the wildlife people by making sure a bear didn’t go into the trap. I didn’t get my bear trapped and I’m waiting to be victimized again.”
Attorney Susanna Truax Kintz, who represents the Homewood, Calif,-based BEAR League, said the nonprofit organization does not support the use of threats or intimidation and is not responsible for the inappropriate conduct of non-members.
Group members exercised their constitutional right to express disagreement with trapping and euthanization policies of the wildlife department, she said, and to potentially prevent bears, dogs and children from entering the trap on O’Donnell’s property.
“They did so peacefully and without violating the law,” Kintz said in a statement. “Mr. O’Donnell’s application for a protective order is wholly without merit, and we are confident it will be denied.”
O’Donnell is the second Incline Village homeowner to take the BEAR League to court after informing the wildlife department about a problem bear.
Last year, Adrienne Evans sued the bear protection group after she says she got death threats for reporting an aggressive bear to Nevada authorities, who then killed the animal. The organization’s motion to dismiss the suit is pending in Reno’s Washoe District Court.
Wildlife officials say harassment by bear advocates is hurting their efforts to reduce human-bear conflicts at Tahoe.
The BEAR League opposes state officials’ policy of killing troublesome bears, saying they should instead be returned to the wild and that humans need to take more steps to keep food away from the animals.
O’Donnell said wildlife officials told him a bear was being attracted by dog food in his garage and he began putting it inside the home earlier this month.
Vacationers who rent his Incline Village home, and only weekly garbage pickups in the summer may be contributing to the problem, he added.
“They (renters) just throw pizza boxes in the trash and don’t know they’re supposed to keep them inside in a sealed bag,” he said, adding twice-a-week garbage pickups could help keep bears away from homes.
In most cases when a bear has damaged a home at Tahoe, the problem was caused by people, not bears, Kintz said. People attract bears by leaving out garbage or storing food in their garages.
“Rather than install a bear box or utilize an electric pad to deter the bear’s entry into his garage, Mr. O’Donnell chose to have a bear trap installed in order to trap a bear that has been living peacefully in the neighborhood for over 10 years,” Kintz said, adding over 48 percent of all bears trapped around Incline Village were euthanized between 2009 and 2013.
Last year, two women became the first people prosecuted in Nevada for interfering with the capture of troublesome bears at Lake Tahoe.