‘Problem’ bear killed in Mammoth Lakes

– Mammoth Lakes Police Department press release

On Sunday, November 30 at approximately 10:20 a.m., Mammoth Lakes Police Officers and Steve Searles, Mammoth Lakes Wildlife Specialist, responded to a report of a bear being shot in Sierra Valley sites.  Upon arrival they were met by a local resident who reported he had shot a bear.


The resident reported the same bear had broken into his garage numerous times in the past few weeks.  Steve Searles responded to several of the previous incidents and confirmed that this resident was dealing with a problem bear.

On November 30, the bear again broke into the resident’s garage and began tearing apart his refrigerator.  The resident yelled at the bear and it went outside.  He followed the bear in an attempt to get the bear to leave the area.  The bear bluff charged the resident who ran to the front of the house.  The bear began following the resident to his front door.

The resident reported being in fear of his life and retrieved a shotgun from inside his residence.  The bear charged him again, turned away, and turned towards the resident again and approached.  The resident fired one round into the bear’s buttocks.  The bear then left the area.

An officer located the bear a short distance away and observed that it was seriously injured.  The officer then put down the bear with one shot.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Warden Estrada responded and conducted an investigation.  After speaking with the resident, Warden Estrada concluded that the depredation of the bear was justified and he issued a post-mortem depredation permit.  After DNA evidence was extracted from the bear, it was removed and disposed in an undisclosed location in the forest.

Residents and visitors are reminded to secure all vehicles, garages, and residences.  Food should never be left accessible or in sight.  Bears are very intelligent and have the ability to smell food in a locked vehicle or garage.  Cars and residences are broken into several times each year.  Some bears are still out and eating as much as they can before hibernating.  Please don’t encourage bad bear behavior.

The public is also reminded that Steve Searles and MLPD officers are equipped with non-lethal weapons that can be used to discourage bad bear behavior.  Anyone experiencing problems with a bear should call 911 and report what is occurring.  That will allow the most experienced and best equipped people to respond and take the best course of action for both public safety and proper bear management.


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53 Responses to ‘Problem’ bear killed in Mammoth Lakes

  1. really? December 5, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    Wow, another Black unarmed bear shot by a White police officer… I bet he wouldn’t have shot it if it was a polar bear.

  2. TRJ December 5, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    Yea no kidding he is over paid, and the job isn’t getting done.

  3. sierragirl December 4, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    I just found out how much Steve the bear guy gets paid. Wow, I don’t think that is money well spent. Biologist don’t get paid that in the State of California and they have masters degrees, this guy doesn’t even have a high school diploma. He is selling the town a bill of goods, that’s for sure.

  4. p ite December 4, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    im not sure how much of the bears natural feed habitate was lost while the building of mammoth and what the bears actually feed on im just wondering if maybe some of this could be rebuilt ?

  5. Trouble December 3, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

    You can lock me up , but you can’t eat me!

  6. Mark December 3, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    The chiefs approach to Bear management reminds me of the war on drugs. His Bear management program is nothing but job security. Like Boo Boo said it’s not a Bear management problem as much as it’s a people management problem.

    Rubber bullets and hazing bears is a re-active backwards approach. You don’t train the Bears chief, you need to train the public.

    The only real solution to this problem is through EDUCATION OF THE PUBLIC.

    • familygal December 3, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

      Mark, does the public need to be “educated” not to have food in their homes????? really?

      It’s not a ‘people managemen’ program that is needed, it’s the bear-guy going back to his rubber bullets and leaving his video camera and social media “let’s name this bear cub” approach to “educating” the bears at home as he should “educate” the bears to leave town with his rubber bullet gun.

      Mammoth is now a breeding ground for bears, and the property owners be damned.

      Maybe it’s the police chief that told the bear-guy to switch from gun to video camera? Chief is that true?

      • Dan Watson December 4, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

        No, it’s not true. Steve has not changed his approach towards adversive conditioning of bears. Other commenters have said his role should be public education. He does both. He and t he Police Department need to be contacted when a bear is in a dumpster, trying to get into a house or car, etc, so we can respond and deal with the problem bear.

      • Mark December 5, 2014 at 8:01 am #

        Bears just don’t come out of the womb and automatically know there is food in houses. It’s learned through people being careless.

        Please take some responsibility

        I’m still not happy with the guy who shot the bear 🙁

  7. Mark December 3, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    You all say what you want, however ultimately the responsibility of the bears demise falls on the community that has failed to live among them without negatively impacting the bears environment.

  8. Boo Boo December 2, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

    What? Bear Management Program? Wildlife management programs are based on biology and other sciences. A management program considers such factors as population surveys, habitat conditions (in this case number of available picnic baskets), and carrying capacity and other factors. These programs are carried out and monitored by biologists and solutions are prescribed for conflicts, disease, over population, and under population. Conditioning bears to avoid people is a technique employed to minimize human conflicts, not management. The reality is that science doesn’t count when a bunch of humans move into wildlife habitat, create a false carrying capacity, and then complain when wildlife impact the human life. Its like moving into your neighbors backyard and expecting the neighbor to accommodate you. When you have to address garbage issues with citizens it is a people management program.

  9. The Aggressive Progressive December 2, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    Seriously? All of you really think this is Okay? Well I hope it comes to you sometime in life that we can’t manipulate MotherEarth to fit our convenient lifestyles and “common sense” in the same idea of thinking the problem goes away.. But hey, if we turn a blind eye to the police getting away with gunning down unarmed “alleged” suspects in the streets, the bears, wolves, eagles are no problem to eliminate if “common sense” deems it reasonable… If common sense in this American culture is becoming okay with the blatant disrespect to all that is sacred, I want NO part of it… sad sad consumer (american) culture really has no redeemable virtues, values or culture….
    But it’s obvious I am a minority hear in this blog…

    • Al Arnold December 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

      To compare the killing of the thug to the killing of the bear is so lame. Typical cry baby from the liberal faction. The guy was a bully and a thug who attacked a cop. He got what was coming to him. The bear situation is way sadder. Read the transcript from the grand jury. Witness #10.

      • The Aggressive Progressive December 3, 2014 at 10:30 am #

        Al Arnold,
        No, to dismiss the struggles of America is lame! You want to talk about cry baby’s, and point me out as a liberal, what about how the right wing medias and talking points make the rich and powerful out to be the victims, and how they are always embracing things to be afraid of, who’s the real cry baby’s?
        The point I am trying to make is how people disregard the life forms that we live among as less of importance when it threatens our convenient consumer lifestyles. I feel these are battles that should have been fought generations ago, once “we the people” noticed the inherent flaws our economic system (monetary incentives and disincentives) has on our ecology and life supporting systems.

        How about Mono county has some kind of program where tranquilizers or other non lethal neutralizing equipment be passed out to people that want to live in “active bear” area’s and take actions to try not to kill, but again I am going to compare this to how the cops have other neutralizing equipment like; tazers, pepper spray, handcuffs, batons… but as we see with kids in a playground with fake guns or aggressive UNARMED individuals get lethal repercussions for their actions that somehow are justified within the law enforcement agencies and cop lovers..?..

        Yeah to dismiss the struggles of America is A LOT lamer then my comparison of the disregard of life.

        • Bob Loblaw December 3, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

          You really can’t see how a government agency handing weapons powerful enough to take down a large angry bear might end up going poorly? Also, if you get shot for trying to beat up a much smaller man whom you know has a loaded gun, and is trained to use it, where does the suprise part come in?

          • The Aggressive Progressive December 3, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

            Well if we collectively did care or “love” the bears, these “preservation” federal agencies should encourage people using NON-Lethal tactics that protect wildlife while protecting themselves. I assume the people in Mammoth or any other Alpine type community to be responsible enough to store and utilize a bean bag gun or tranquilizer… I mean because we already live in a society where distributors have the green light to sell High powered guns to anyone, so I don’t really understand what you mean by “might end up going poorly”…

            Oh so kill people at the first opportunity to make sure your safe? and your okay with this coming from those who have sworn to serve and protect the whole public? It’s not about a smaller man protecting himself from a larger man, the surprise comes from how shooting and killing a unarmed man has become a cultural norm in our society of policing!

          • Bob Loblaw December 5, 2014 at 8:37 am #

            The point AP, is that TOML is already in deep enough water courtesy of lawsuits, and handing free weaponry in this lawsuit happy country is unlikely to help. To your second point, to call the killing of an unarmed man by police “a cultural norm” is ridiculous. The funny part, is that on one had you seem to be against people owning weapons, while simultaneously outraged about police abusing their authority. Amazing.

    • J R local December 2, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

      Sad to say for you A.G. we are part of mother nature. I think that the town should go back to the rules dfw has for shooting around an occupied dwelling. You can hunt 450 feet from a occupied dwelling that way when these bears leave town a law abiding citizen could shoot it safely and humanely. Last year out of the 1700 bears that DFW say can be harvested around 1000 were taken legally. With out the use of dogs to hunt bears the bear problem is not going to get better more bears less food more bears in peoples trash.

  10. Dan Watson December 2, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    I’d like to respond to some of the comments about the Town’s Bear Management Program and our Wildlife Specialist, Steve Searles. He has two primary responsibilities – managing the bear population and public education. The public education portion is handled through a variety of ways including informal contact with people, responding to calls and providing advice, public presentations, and social media. Steve has a large following on social media and his messages are both entertaining and informative. He has not stopped using adversive conditioning techniques in favor of videos.

    To manage the bear population, Steve monitors and tracks their activities. The Town’s Bear Management Program strives for coexistence with our wildlife population. There are many bears that live in Town year round and are not a problem. They have been conditioned to stay away from cars, houses, and ice chests, and to forage on natural food supplies. To condition bears, Steve and MLPD officers are equipped with a variety of non-lethal devices including flash bangs, rubber shot gun rounds, and rubber pellets. When bears is caught misbehaving, they are punished.

    Most bears respond to this training and learn what’s unacceptable behavior. Others do not. Blondie from 4 years ago was a good example. She broke into approximately 75 homes over a two year period and a depredation permit was issued and she was put down by an MLPD sergeant.

    This bear has been in Town for several years and until recently, was not a problem. As reported by some of the commenters, he has become a problem this summer. Unfortunately, calls were not made to the Police in a timely manner to allow for Steve or officers to catch the bear in the act.

    The Department of Fish and Wildlife has deemed this to be a justified depredation. We accept their decision.

    There are many who believe the Town of Mammoth Lakes’ Bear Management Program is a model for managing wildlife. Others want to see all the bears removed. I believe a measure of success is how many bears are destroyed each year. Whistler has put down 12 bears this year. Lake Tahoe and June Lake have far more problems than we do, and have put down far more bears than Mammoth Lakes. This was the second problem bear destroyed in town in the last 20 years. That doesn’t include injured bears that had to be euthanized. I believe that shows our program is working as intended.

    No doubt the new Police Chief will review the Town’s Bear Management Program and determine whether or not to continue it. My recommendation will be that he does.

    • Mark December 2, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

      So there is evidence the bear was a thug. Was there any witnesses who observed the bear charging the shooter?

      There sure are a lot of similarities to the Mike Brown Ferguson event

      this story still stinks

    • h December 2, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

      I thought your highest priority is to protect life and property – not to manage our bear population. You have done a good job during your tenure with the exception of managing Mr. Searles. It’s simply gone out of control. Many in our community feel this way but are fearful in speaking out. It’s about community and not Mr. Searles fame.

      • Brian December 3, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

        Agreed- Leave the management of wildlife to our State Agency. Maybe some of us have not heard of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. We have already paid for there services as well with our state taxes. https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/

        If Mr. Searles wants to showcase himself why do we have to fund it!

    • familygal December 2, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

      I appreciate your comments. However, I have seen the bear-guy go from carrying a rubber bullet gun in the past to now carrying a video camera. When he carried the gun we had fewer bears and bear problems. Now carrying his video camera, we have too many bears, aggressive bears, personal property damage, BUT lots of you tube video hits and lots of social media buzz, BUT less safe personal property and less safe residents. What gives with this new direction of “bear management”?

    • Lupinite December 2, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

      Thanks Dan,

      I wish you were not leaving us.

  11. Sierra Manor December 2, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

    The bears are getting worse in Mammoth. I used to enjoy them but they have gotten out of control and they scare me now. I have lived in Mammoth for over a decade and I think the bears are more aggressive now. I really questions Steve Searles tactics. They haven’t been working in the last few years. I am glad they shot that bear because if it charged a full grown man, what do you think it would do to a small child. We probably should be shooting more of them for public safety.

  12. Sean December 2, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    Good shoot. A bear charging anyone in town or breaking into a house needs to be put down. Especially if a repeat offender.
    I am glad I have neighbors who have some common sense, guts and guns to do what needs to be done when common sense dictates.
    I commend this resident for taking the action he did.

  13. wagonrd December 2, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    There is no food for bears in the woods of the Eastern Sierra. If you think differently, would you tell me specifically what is out there for a bear to eat? They must rely on human provided food resources to live. In other words, bears are here because if humans. So if you want bears around in order to feel closer to nature, you must feed them. e.g. a bear feeding station on Mono Pass or whereever. The Wyoming wildlife service feeds the elk, is there a reason why we can’t do the same for bears? So, there are two options: feed them or kill them. The third option, which is what exists here- “Starving to death” is cruel

    • Bob Loblaw December 2, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

      Because if elk suddenly want more food they don’t break into homes. And for the record, animals without natural predators starve all the time in nature. Nature is, in fact, cruel.

  14. susie December 2, 2014 at 3:04 am #

    This was a problem bear. The bear has been a problem for weeks. Nothing was being done to protect the people from this bear. I feel bad for the resident who had to shoot this bear. Protecting his family should be the main thing we focus on. How horrible would this story be if we were reading about this family being mauled. Steve said the bear was a problem. Mammoth lakes pd and fish and game said it was justified. Let it be.

  15. B. Smith December 2, 2014 at 1:06 am #

    I’m sure the bear was very polite, had his front legs in the air and was retreating from the gunman!!! Sound familiar? Good Job to the resident who shot this beast to protect him and his property.

    • Joe December 3, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

      The bear walked away saying “don’t shoot”. Was it a black bear? Sounds like it was racially motivated. I suppose the guy doing the shooting was white. Great… Jesse Jackson and that Al guy might be coming to Mammoth in their private jets to make a speech. Riots in Mammoth will ensue. Golf carts will burn for this.

  16. eric hein December 1, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    With what is stated in the article I would would say that once you are back in the house stay there and call 911,but there could be facts missing such as whether or not there were other people outside nearby.As to the response earlier of “someone should move back to the city”,until you have gotten all the facts or you have had a similar experience it’s easy to make knee-jerk comments.2 months ago I was walking down the driveway in the condo complex when a bear walked out from behind a dumpster over 60 feet away.It was headed away from me so I stopped to give it room.It suddenly spun and charged me getting to with in 3-5 feet away and then backed me up about 20 feet,most of that close enough that I could have reached out and touched it.It then turned away before lunging at me again,no warning woofs or clacking of teeth.I talked to Steve the next day and mentioned that the bear seemed much more stressed than in the past and my concern was that somebody would surprise the bear or approach much closer with more serious results.One of his comments was that if we don’t have enough snow for hibernation by Christmas it could get ugly.

  17. Lupinite December 1, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

    That bear has been a nuisance since Fall. I have confronted that bear on my porch and He was not afraid of people. He would scratch at my door almost nightly. I had been concerned of this and my safety as I did not have such a weapon to protect me from this honorary bear. I had notified the proper authorities of my concerns weeks ago. I told them that I was concerned that this bear was not afraid of people and it was going to hurt someone.

    Please note to those who do not get it. This bear had already entered a home in the neighborhood. He broke into the garage, what is the difference. He tried to get into my place and no door was going to stand in the way of the wrath of this bear.

    There were no tracks in my area this morning so I am pretty much convinced that was the bear causing all the trouble on my property.

  18. familygal December 1, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

    The bears are a big problem since the bear guy has gone from using rubber bullets on them to shooting video of them instead in the neighborhoods (he shoots rubber bullets at the school only). I feel for the man who had to shoot the bear, the amount of damage by the bears to personal property this huge! These bears are treated with kid gloves by the bear- guy while they tear apart personal property! Is this about the number hits on the bear-guy’s “you tube” videos or running the bears out of town like before? I am confused about the bear-guy’s agenda these days! I love the bears, but NOT when they start to destroy my or my neighbors personal property!

    • The Aggressive Progressive December 2, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

      Please don’t say you love them if elimination of them is necessary when they cross your Imaginary boundary line….

      • familygal December 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

        It is my opinion and my words are true to me. I do love them, but as with all things in life, when a line is crossed, it is crossed and there are consequences indeed. We can love a human being too, but if they trash private property there are consequences. This bear should have been run out of town by the bear-guy, not video’ed for his you tube channel. The fault, I believe, is with the bear-guy. There are too many bears in town, and most of us live as literal prisoners in our homes, unable to have anything on our property that “attracts” bears or causes them to behave badly – really? This man’s garage was broken into, is he not supposed to keep food in his own home? please……………….

    • mammothnative22 December 2, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

      Familygal has it right. I’ve lived in Mammoth my whole life. We never had bear problems until we started accommodating bears. Nothing is natural about the approximately 30 bears encroaching on our 5 square miles of town…. nowhere in the world is 30 bears living this close to each other natural! I was okay with the 4 bears that lived here for the first 35 years of my life. I am not okay with the 30 bears over the last 10 years now presenting danger, damaging my property and competing for food in our little town. Once again, love to share with a normal population, not in love with how we have now created a breeding habitat for too many bears.

  19. h December 1, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    I guess Mr. Searle’s methods in dealing with problem bears are not always successful. The press release indicates that he responded to “numerous” incidents involving this bear. The press release also says nothing to indicate that the homeowner was leaving out trash or food in and around his home. In September, a black bear stalked and killed an individual in New Jersey while he was hiking. While this is behavior is obviously atypical, bears are wild animals and should be treated as such and not “humanized” as Mr. Searles has been doing for years. I understand saying this is heresy in our Town but is the truth. I hope our new police chief is paying attention.

  20. Ken Warner December 1, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    None of you were there.

    • Wayne Deja December 1, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

      Ken Warner….The gunshot to the butt says it all…..A “charging ” bear would get it in the head or front-quarters….not the ass-end.

      • Scuba S. December 2, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

        Wayne for the first time in my life living in Mammoth. I couldn’t agree more with your delusional ass this time. hahahaha Most of the time your so delusional; I grab a cup of coffee and some toast and laugh my morning away, but today is Different! Wow this is crazy. You should see the smile on my face today. Its like when when the Grinch ( from the Grinch stole christmas ) smiles. The people that thumbed this down must think a bears head an ass are the same thing ………….

  21. Trouble December 1, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    If a bear has or is tearing my house apart, I’m shooting it . I could care less what the law says!

    • Rick O'Brien December 1, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

      Trouble…I HATE it when someone says it wrong!!! It’s ” I COULDN”T care less. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to me…COULDN’T, COULDN’T COULDN’T !

      • Trouble December 2, 2014 at 8:12 am #

        It’s a blog Rick, I couldn’t care less!

        • Rick O'Brien December 2, 2014 at 8:53 pm #


  22. Wayne Deja December 1, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    First time I ever heard of a bear charging a person butt-first…and what did he have loaded in his shotgun….bird pellets ???….Sad story here,but thankfully,the officer was able to locate the injured bear and put him out of his misery.Sounds to me this Mammoth Lakes bear-shooting “investigation” is a whole bunch of who-shot-John…

  23. sugarmagnolia December 1, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    Not saying the man was right or wrong……but what about the No Shooting ordinance in Mammoth? I thought there were NO exceptions to that law?

    • Brian December 1, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

      You are always justified to discharge a firearm to protect yourself. The town No Shooting Ordinance doesn’t negate your ability to protect yourself.

      I believe the shooting was justified. It is however a shame that the TOML has gotten in the way of protecting it’s citizens from problem bears. The bear should have been disposed of by a professional agency- (Department of Fish and Wildlife) before it came to this.

  24. Mark December 1, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    I will respectively disagree. I feel the shooting was not justified.

    Someone should move back to the city.

  25. Tinner December 1, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    Shooting a bear in the butt is justified? Doesn’t sound justified to me.
    If the bear “turned towards the resident again and approached” how did the bear get shot in the butt? Was the bear walking backwards maybe?
    I understand it sometimes has to be done but if your going to do it, do it humanely.
    If you can’t, leave it to somebody who can like Steve or MLPD.
    I live in the same neighborhood and I have dealt with problem bears myself, maybe the same bear.

    • Boo Boo December 1, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

      Paws up, Don’t shoot!

      • Lorijellybean December 2, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

        ^ ::Giggle:: That’s bad. 😀

      • Yogi December 2, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

        No sense of humor on this blog.

        I am off to find a picnic basket. Catch me if you can Mr. Searles. My rump is still sore from the last time you caught me.


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