Wildlife management in Mammoth, often a contentious subject, has taken a new path this year. Rather then a one man show featuring Mammoth “bear man” Steve Searles, the new Town Human Bear Management Plan takes a two-pronged approach.
Searles will handle the bear calls under contract, while education and dumpster enforcement will be up to town staff and other agencies like the Department of Fish and Game and the Forest Service.
After two years of wrangling, the Town of Mammoth and Searles have agreed on a new contract. The new contract has Searles responding to bear calls through the Police Department like he used to, but now instead of calling Searles directly on his cell, town officials would like people to call the Police Department.
If the wildlife call is an emergency or is life threatening, 911 is the best number to call, of course. For other wildlife incidents, officials ask that you call the Police Department at 934-2011. With the budget cuts, you might not be able to get a live person at the Police Department, but if you call the main number a phone tree will route you to the Mono Sheriffs Department by pressing one. There, another phone tree will route you to dispatch by pressing seven. You can also call the Mono Sheriffs department directly at 932-7549.
Its a longer process then it used to be, but in the end the call is routed to Searles who responds along with a police officer.
The second aspect of the Human Bear Management Plan, is public education and enforcement of trash storage rules. Town spokeman Stuart Brown reports that Risk Manager Michael Grossblatt and staff from the Community Development Department are out every morning to enforce dumpster codes.
Mayor Wendy Sugimura explained that the town has already sent out mailers to people with dumpsters and also to every PO Box in Mammoth, regarding bears and wildlife. There are also plans to work with the Forest Service Campground Hosts in the Lakes Basin to get the word out, and two Sierra Conservation Association interns are expected to help with wildlife education this summer, Sugimura reports.
The hope is to get a consistent message to the public. One thing the town wont be doing is reproducing the “dont feed our bears,” stickers that have adorned local bumpers for years.
The over all plan is to keep bear from becoming habituated to humans, Sugimura explained. The saying is that a fed bear is a dead bear, but what that means is that if a bear gets too habituated to humans, and is seen as a danger to people, the bear gets shot. Its far better to keep the bears wild the thinking goes.
This new wildlife management strategy is a work in progress. Time will tell how effective it is an whether or not changes need to be made.