Officials: Gunshot killed Tahoe City bear |

Officials: Gunshot killed Tahoe City bear

Alex Close/Sierra SunMike Babcock points to the tree from where a bear fell when he shot at it with a .22 caliber rifle from the back deck of his Mackinaw Road home before sunrise on Aug. 28. California Fish and Game Warden Richard Vincent, right, oversaw the investigation.

Killing bears is not taken lightly in the Tahoe-Truckee area, either by residents or by law enforcement officials.

Nearly three weeks ago a Tahoe City resident shot at a bear, which fell from a tree and died. On Friday, the California Department of Fish and Game confirmed that it was the bullet and not the fall that took the nursing sow’s life, leaving behind a 6-month-old cub.

“A necropsy was done on that bear ” it was shot with a .22-caliber and the cause of death was due to the gunshot,” said Kyle Orr, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game.

Details of the gunshot wound are not being released.

Early in the morning on Aug. 28, Placer County Sheriff’s officials responded to a call about a possible dead bear. Michael Babcock, a resident and business owner on Mackinaw Road in Tahoe City, awoke early to watch the lunar eclipse and heard rustling in his yard. He said he was experiencing particularly aggravating bear problems this year, and “shot at” a bear that had climbed a tree near his house. In an interview, he said he wasn’t aiming for the bear and didn’t realize she had a cub.

Once the sun rose he discovered the bear lying on the ground, and surmised he had scared it out of the tree and that it fell and broke its neck. Law enforcement officials and animal advocates were skeptical of his story, but could find no immediate evidence of a bullet wound.

Fish and Game Patrol Lt. Richard Vincent confiscated the gun and ammunition samples, and sent them to the department lab for investigation.

Reports from the necropsy showed the sow died immediately when struck in a “vital organ” with a bullet from the .22-caliber gun, said BEAR League Executive Director Ann Bryant.

“She died instantly from the gunshot. Apparently the guy was a true marksman and knew exactly what he was doing. He fired at the perfect spot,” she said.

The community has been up in arms recently, not just about this particular incident but about the mounting bear troubles Basin-wide.

The Babcock case is still under investigation. If investigators determine there was a violation, it is standard operating procedure to turn the report over to the local district attorney’s office, Orr said.

Placer County Deputy District Attorney Chris Cattran said he has not received any case information and that if a necropsy was just recently completed, it would take some time to turn the reports over.

If the district attorney’s office determines sufficient evidence exists to prove a crime was committed, officials would then file charges.

The illegal taking of a bear is a misdemeanor offense. The maximum sentence is one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine, Cattran said.

The negligent discharge of a firearm can be either a misdemeanor or a felony offense punishable by up to three years in state prison. Shooting a firearm near a residence is also a misdemeanor offense and subject to a year in jail, Cattran said.

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