The ongoing mess surrounding the firing of Mammoth Wildlife Officer Steve Searles looks like it wont be ending anytime soon. The Town of Mammoth had a plan to hand the bear program over to the people, but at a meeting Wednesday night it appeared that few people want to take on the bear job.
Whether it was the 4:00pm start, an active effort to boycott the meeting, or a combination of both, the meeting was sparsley attended. Of the 15 or so people at the meeting, about half were town employees or with the media.
The bad blood between Steve Searles and the Chief of Police that led to a confidential investigation and the Council decision to try to ditch the bear program altogether, was left out of this meeting. Sgt. Karen Smart worked to facilitate the meeting and to try to guide the people who attended through the basics of setting up a non-profit bear group similar to the Tahoe Bear League.
An hour into the meeting, the sparse citizen population got sparser, leading to a few giggles. One attendee described the meeting as painful.
Trying to move forward with the new plan, discussion of the events that led up to this new direction for wildlife management in town was not allowed Wednesday night; but like fruit from the poisonous tree, those events are everything to Searles. He called the whole idea of starting over with a new bear program, dysfunctional, and, silly.
Cleland Hoff, who was at the meeting as both a concerned citizen and a reporter, spoke to Searles after the meeting. When asked if he could support a non-profit group that had nothing to do with the police department, Searles said that wouldn’t work.
After years of running wildlife calls with the officers, Searles says that, “The police are the unsung heroes.” If anything, he explained, the Town should “hire someone who they’ re not mad at to do the job.”
When asked what he wants to see for wildlife management in Mammoth, Searles said he wants the world renowned bear management program back the way it was.
Despite the lackluster first meeting of the town-ordered non-profit bear management group, one Mammoth resident, Joe Parrino, did say he’d step up to form a group. He invites anyone interested to give him call so he can schedule a first meeting. His number is 914-0774.