When is a gun a firearm and when is it a bear management tool? Forest officials can’t seem to wrap their heads around that one, but Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson will push on with his work to get Steve Searles back on forest land with his bear training techniques.
A bear broke into and trashed another cabin near Lake Mary last week. Mammoth’s Wildlife man, Steve Searles said the break-in pointed out the need to use aversion tactics and the Forest Service, so far, won’t let him.
We talked to Mammoth District Ranger Jon Regelbrugge who said that Chief Watson did submit a letter asking that Searles be able to uses pepper ball guns and tazers on forest land. Asked if pepper ball guns are lethal, Searles said, no. He said they use soft rubber balls that “will not even break your skin.”
Regelbrugge said that the forest service decided that these devices are prohibited in developed recreation areas like the Lakes Basin. Forest officials maintain that firearms, including the devices the police chief wants Searles to use, are illegal.
Chief Watson moved on to another idea. Regelbrugge said that he and Chief Watson recently met with Fish and Game officials. He said Fish and Game revealed that they intend to train non-sworn biologists to discharge certain firearms for specific and limited purposes. Chief Watson said if the forest okays this Fish and Game plan, he wants the same for Searles.
Chief Watson will send this proposal to the Forest Service, and Regelbrugge said they will evaluate it. He added that the issue is the discharge of a firearm and a chance for innocent bystanders to get hurt. Even so, he did say the Forest will look into the Fish and Game proposal and will also evaluate it for use by Searles.