Lake Tahoe man who shot, killed bear says he did so in self-defense | SierraSun.com

Lake Tahoe man who shot, killed bear says he did so in self-defense

Jack Barnwell
jbarnwell@tahoedailytribune.com

A man was identified as the person who shot and killed a bear in South Lake Tahoe.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — State wildlife authorities are investigating if a man acted in self-defense when he shot and killed a young black bear near Pioneer Trail at Lake Tahoe's South Shore on Thursday.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Capt. Patrick Foy said the man's name has not been released because the bear's death is under investigation, and the man hasn't been cited.

The man reportedly admitted Saturday to shooting the 2-year-old untagged black bear and said it was an act of self-defense.

On Tuesday, Foy confirmed the man reported the bear had been inside his garage, and that he grabbed a shotgun from inside his home and shot the bear, which ran out and died elsewhere.

Foy said once the investigation concludes, Fish and Wildlife will turn over information to the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office, which will determine whether or not to press charges.

The man said the same bear had damaged his property in the past, Foy said. When a biologist was sent out previously, Foy said the man had been offered a depredation permit to kill the bear, but he declined.

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"His initial statement was that he was fearful of retaliation from bear activists," Foy said.

A couple reported seeing the bear wandering the neighborhood early Thursday morning. Later that night, they reported hearing what sounded like a loud fireworks pop or gunshot.

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care received a call and sent out volunteer Toogee Sielsch to follow up. Sielsch and his son determined the bear had been shot in the back and had fallen from a tree.

Sielsch had the bear relocated to LTWC's facility to preserve the body.

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READ MORE: The Lake Tahoe neighborhood where the bear was killed was 'angry and horrified' to hear the news, Bryant said.

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On Saturday, a Fish and Wildlife game warden evaluated the scene and began canvasing the neighborhood.

Foy said the warden followed the bear's tracks from where it died back to where it had apparently come from, and he was able to identify the person who shot it.

By Sunday, as information about the incident began to spread on social media, the BEAR League — the Homewood-based nonprofit that provides tips and information on how to handle bears in the Lake Tahoe Basin — had set up an account for a reward in the event a tip led to the conviction of a suspect responsible for the shooting.

On Tuesday, the group called off the fundraising effort. Ann Bryant, executive director of the BEAR League, said no tips had come forward because Fish and Wildlife found the man on their own.

"The department found them on their own because they knew the man was quite vocal about the bear," she said.

Bryant said the unidentified man has called both the League and Fish and Wildlife in the past about killing the bear.

"We don't kill bears and we told him that," Bryant said. "He wanted the bear killed, but the only problem was that he was not taking common sense steps to keep the bear from coming around."

Bryant declined to give the man's name, citing that it was still an active investigation.

She said the man allegedly did not keep his garage closed or keep food or trash out of reach of bears. She also disputed the man's claim of self-defense.

"It's not true because the body was found quite a ways away from his house," Bryant said. "He did not try to attack him at his house. The bear might have been at the house or in the neighborhood. The bear hadn't done anything."

Sierra Sun Editor Kevin MacMillan contributed to this report.