‘Cute’ bear in a world of trouble

Elsewhere, red mother bear totals car in feeding rampage

A 19-month-old, black-on-black bear, described by Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles as “cute,” could face the executioner unless people in Old Mammoth can figure out a way to stop his felonious behavior.

At the same time, a mother bear with two cubs is rapidly learning the art of vehicle break-ins near Canyon Lodge, where she and the youngsters totaled a “fairly new” car this past week after being trapped in it for about six hours.

Searles brought both situations to the attention of the Town Council on Monday, July 8, dealing first with the circumstances surrounding the juvenile black bear in Old Mammoth.

“The bear’s mother was killed last year in a car accident,” Searles said, “and the bear doesn’t have many life skills or common sense around people.

“He continues to go into homes, open cars, open garages—all soft entries. There’s been no property damage to date, or public safety issues, but he’s so small, black over black, greasy black-black, he’s a very unique-looking bear, people are reluctant to call 911.

“I’m not picking on anybody, but we all know what’s going to happen with this young bear,” Searles said. “It’s going to be shot and killed. It cannot continue to go into homes. We need to curb this.”

Searles described the problem bear’s home range as Red Fir on the west to the end of Tamarack on the south; Ski Trails to the east and Old Mammoth Road to the north. He sometimes has been crossing Old Mammoth Road, but very rarely, Searles said.

He said the bear is using the exact same home range of a previous bear named Blondie—the celebrity bear whose criminal behavior caused her to meet an unfortunate fate at the hands of an executioner.

A similar death sentence could face the youngster unless people in the neighborhood apply some tough discipline, Searles said.

“I want to let everybody know that if we keep going down this road and continue feeding this bear, willingly or unwillingly, it’s going to lead to the bear’s death.”

Searles said he recognized that it’s a tough thing with which to deal for most people.

“We’ve had one of the coldest winters on record and now it’s been extremely hot outside, and I think everybody has the right to leave their doors and windows open and enjoy the breeze, and get their homes aired out.

“They think he’s cute and they want the cell phone photo, and so through numerous soft entries in the homes, it’s led to where we’re at today.”

A different circumstance entirely is affecting the Slopes neighborhood near Canyon Lodge, however.

There, in a home range generally described as Hillside to the north, Davidson to the south, Canyon Lodge to the west and the Village to the east, a red sow with two cubs is hard at work, Searles said.

“She’s not getting into homes or garages, and she doesn’t go near a dumpster, but she can open a car faster than I can,” Searles said. “She’s going in and stealing food out of cars, some without property damage, but one car, quite a new car, was totaled and taken to the crusher. It won’t be a car anymore. The bears were locked in there for about six hours.

“So if you live up there, a word to the wise: keep food out of the car, lock your car up, and use good judgment.”

Without question, Searles said, the bear season has begun full-on, but he said he was cautiously optimistic about this season, based on what happened here last summer.

“There are a lot of bears out,” he said. “It’s ‘Game On.’ I don’t need to lecture this council or the community. People do a great job.

“Last year, after one of the biggest droughts ever recorded, myself and the chief of police met early in the spring and I thought it would be predictable that four or five bears would be put to the ground last summer, but no bears were shot for public safety or property damage.

“It shows what our community’s about. I don’t need to tell everybody the ups and downs of code systems with the bears, but now it’s time.

“I’ve been on several calls already today and it’s time to put our best foot forward and do what we do best, and show the world how it can be done.”