At last Tuesday’s Wildlife Committee meeting, police chief Dan Watson commented that there was a bit of a communications breakdown over Labor Day weekend when it came to bear complaint response.
Watson, who was out of town over the long weekend, said he is going to call for a conference with members of the U.S. Forest Service (who were not present at the wildlife committee meeting), Department of Fish and Game, as well as Mono County and Mammoth Lakes Police Department, to talk about these jurisdictional issues in the Mammoth area.
Two interfaces between humans and bears became areas of confrontation in the past week: the Labor Day Arts Festival at Sam’s Woods, where a man was bitten, and the cabins up in the Lakes Basin where a bear has been rampaging and breaking into cabins looking for food. The bear behavior at Sam’s Woods was clearly an accident, as a vendor surprised a bear as the man was walking back to his booth from the porta-potties and the stunned bear bit him. It wasn’t a bad bite and the vendor has gone home, saying it was an accident. Police and Steve Searles responded.
Up at the Lakes Basin cabins, folks are not so complacent, as the bear is wreaking havoc with their homes. Nor is it a simple matter of whom to call. The area is in the jurisdiction of the Town of Mammoth Lakes, but the properties are on forest service land. Police can respond, but can discharge only non-lethal rounds.
While the vendors at the arts festival are still at the stage where they think the bears are cute, the people living in the cabins are under siege.
Every fall is different, but bears go where they smell food, and they have exceptional olfactory senses. Both Town and residents have buckled down and kept dumpsters closed and locked against the bears, but it seems the fringes are still prey to our ursine neighbors.
We applaud Chief Watson for his efforts and wonder why such a gathering hasn’t been called before to clear up the jurisdictional confusion.
Unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the Mammoth Times Editorial Board.