Mammoth’s Bear Program, fraught with controversies over the years, has run into one more snag. Forest Service personnel have problems with Steve Searles’ work on Forest land. One Forest Law Enforcement Officer said that if her fellow officer had seen Searles at work with his hazing guns, she would have shot him.
Tensions over Searles unique work are not new, but Forest Service anxiety only recently surfaced. Seems federal regulations do not allow non-law enforcement to discharge firearms in campgrounds and that includes Searles flash-bang hazing techniques to manage bears. So Forest Law Enforcement want to be called in.
At a recent meeting at the town conference room in Mammoth, Forest Service personnel sat down with Town Council members, police and Searles. Councilman Skip Harvey said the Forest Service wants to be notified when Searles deals with bears on Forest land so they can show up. Easier said than done since bears frequently go from town to forest and back to town land.
Those at the meeting confirmed that a female Forest Service law enforcement officer had jumped up and yelled, “Do I look like a police officer! Do I look like a police officer!” She was apparently saying that Searles was not identified as official on a routine bear call at a campground. She also said that if the other female Forest Service officer had appeared at the campground where Searles was dealing with a bear “she would have shot him.” This according to several who attended the meeting.
Council member Wendy Sugimura said she thinks the Forest Service has a new focus on law enforcement since they hired two new officers. Both Harvey and Sugimura feel all of this can eventually work out.
The bottom line – the Forest Service wants Searles to notify them when he crosses onto Forest land so they can show up. In the fray of bear taming, stopping to notify bureaucrats and waiting for their arrival may put a crimp in effective bear management.
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