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‘Problem’ bear destroyed on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore

Staff Reports

LAKE TAHOE – A young bear was trapped and killed Monday night despite efforts from Bear Preservation League members to save the animal.

The bear, named “Blondie” by local residents, had a habit of wandering the residential areas of Meeks Bay and Rubicon Bay and helping himself to loaves of bread and cans of Pepsi, among other human goodies.

Lt. Rob Kilbourne, with the California State Department of Fish and Game, issued the permit to destroy the bear on July 14 following a complaint from a Meeks Bay man about Blondie, who had broken into his home in search of food.

“The trap was set last night (Monday) and the bear was killed,” Kilbourne said.

Nuisance bears

California law is such that any individual can obtain a permit to have a bear destroyed by a federal trapper if the bear has become a nuisance. A bear that has damaged property or has broken into a home can be trapped and killed.

And, according to some Meeks Bay residents, Blondie had made a habit of enjoying human delicacies and finding his way into homes; but most of the residents didn’t want the animal killed, they just wanted to figure out how to keep their food, homes and children safe.

“I saw the bear in the trap yesterday,” said a summer Meeks Bay resident, Mary Gray. “I then called in (the Bear Preservation League) because I thought they had set the trap. I wanted to let them know they could come get their bear and relocate it.”

But, the trap was from Fish and Game and the bear was destroyed.

“Problem bears are not relocated in California,” Kilbourne said.

Gray said she had no idea the bear was going to be destroyed, and neither did other local residents.

“We had been told the bear was going to be relocated,” Gray said “They can sometimes be a nuisance, but we would never want to see one killed. We assumed it could even be put in a zoo.”

According to Kilbourne, 100 percent of the time, problem bears are not relocated, they are destroyed. And any resident can obtain a permit to do so.

“It’s so important people realize that if they call for this permit, the bear will be killed, there is no other choice,” said Bob Malm, co-founder of the Bear Preservation League. “At some point, we have to make this real to people, that if you feed bears, they will die.”

Prior to the July 14 depredation permit, some Meeks Bay residents contacted the Bear Preservation League for help with Blondie.

The Bear Preservation League is made up of a group of trained volunteers who respond to residents who are having trouble with bears.

The group works with Fish and Game and its goal is to educate residents and visitors about living with bears and to make sure bears do not become domesticated and thus, turn into problems to be dealt with by federal trappers.

League members show residents how to break a bear’s bad habits of foraging for human food and how to keep their trash bear- proof.

The league was formed last year in response to a bear and cub that were both trapped and killed in Homewood.

“We started getting calls from residents in Meeks Bay at the beginning of June,” said Ann Bryant, co-founder of the league. “None of the residents wanted the bear killed and we were happy to work with them to help them feel safe. And, they all gladly worked with us.”

According to Bryant, however, one man went directly to Fish and Game without going to the league and requested a depredation permit to have the bear destroyed.

“The whole consensus of the neighbors had been to save the bear, and then this one man gets scared, calls Fish and Game and has him killed,” Bryant said. “The bear came into his house and he was just a scared man. The bear has gone into hundreds of homes and has not hurt one person. Little old ladies have stood up to the bear and the bear has ran off.”

According to both Bryant and Kilbourne, the best way to keep a bear alive is to not allow him access to your food and home.

“Bears should not be allowed to eat human food,” Kilbourne said. “You have to make it unavailable to them. People actually feed bears and it’s illegal, a fed bear is a dead bear.”

Kilbourne encourages residents to call CalTIP at (888) DFG-CalTIP to anonymously report anyone feeding bears.

“We want to know about it,” Kilbourne said. “The end result of bears having access to human food is death.”

Bryant agrees.

“If you think it’s going to be a fairy tale ending when you tame a bear, it’s not,” Bryant said. “The bear dies.”

To contact the Bear Preservation League or to make a donation, call 525-PAWS (7297).


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