Visitors and Locals Call for Better Bear Management

Killing bears for what they might do. That’s how Mammoth’s Bear specialist, Steve Searles describes the Department of Fish and Game philosophy of handling wildlife. Even though popular response goes against killing problem bears, DFG officials say it’s the only way.

When DFG destroyed a familiar bear on Monday, public response registered strong objections to the killing and the wish to find another way. Don and Maria Baird have long spent time in Mammoth Lakes. They knew the bear killed and called it Scruffy. Baird had photographed the bear in the Lake George area. He said he got upset that DFG would trap it and kill it. “It’s like we’re living in the 1600s,” he said. “It’s some kind of macho thing.”

Baird said DFG’s Tim Taylor laughed at them and told them the wheels were in motion. The Bairds said they found a zoo willing to take the bear and pay for it.

Reports indicate that windows were left open in some lodges where the bear broke in. The Bairds made the point that someone needs to be more proactive in managing the bears who live in Mammoth.

The only such person on record is Steve Searles, long active in managing Mammoth’s wildlife and creator of the bear management program he used here and many others use across the nation.

Searles worked to educate the bears and the public in an ongoing program that sought to anticipate problems so that there was never a question of killing bears. Searles, who was a volunteer wildlife manager, was asked to leave the police department over his wish to do an anti-drug program.

Of this week’s bear killing by DFG, Searles called it a setback. He pointed to the successes of the earlier bear management program,which does require ongoing education of the public and of the animals.

Some in the community have begun to ask officials to let Searles get back to work on the animals to re-establish a better management pattern.


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