Former Mammoth Police Wildlife Officer Steve Searles reports an intense bear incident at the Cabins at Crooked Pines in Mammoth last week. Searles reports that he and an Animal Planet cameraman were following a bear when the bear entered a home where an eleven month old girl was sleeping.
Searles reports that he and the cameraman were following a bear to check out its age, size, and sex, something that he routinely did when he worked for the police department. Searles says that the bears usually don’t even know that hes there as he works to find their dens and observe their feeding habits. 60% of what I do is observing, he says.
Thinking that the bear might be headed to a culvert to take shelter until the evening, Searles says that this bear headed toward the Cabins at Crooked Pines got onto its hind legs and appeared to be trying to enter the unit. When he heard the sound of the screen being ripped off, Searles picked up some rocks, as hes no longer allowed to carry any of the non lethal tools that he developed under the Police Department, and ran to the front porch.
On the porch, Searles says that there was a lady on the porch, unaware that there was a bear 15 feet behind her. When he asked if there was anyone else in the house, she said she was baby sitting her 11 month old granddaughter. Entering the home, Searles says that he put his back to door where the baby was sleeping and open the door 3 feet across the hallway to find the bear in a separate bedroom.
The woman, who didn’t know who Searles was terrified for her granddaughter, Searles says, screaming you’re scaring me.
Using his voice, body language, and posturing, Searles says that he held his position and drove the bear out the window. Meanwhile the camera man kept the woman on the porch as the bear was chased off. When the grandmother checked on the baby, Searles reports that the baby had been woken up, but was otherwise fine.
Of the intense situation, resolved with shouts, Searles says that bears don’t predate our children, but, I would have been irresponsible to leave it to chance.
With years of experience working with wild animals, we asked Searles if he was scared. He answered yes. As much as I love the bears, standing in a three foot wide hallway in front of a two and a half foot wide bear, Id be lying if I said otherwise, he says.
Searles says that usually he carries a 12 gauge shotgun with both lethal and non-lethal rounds. Under the new system, working for Bear With Us and not the Police, Searles can only carry his tools if there is an officer present. With this clutch situation, there was no time to call an officer, and Searles was left to work with his voice.
When asked why Searles cant use the wildlife management tools that he developed over the years, Town Manager Rob Clark explained that the town is subject to the rules and regulations of the Department of Fish and Game. We’ve gone as far as we can, to authorize Searles under state law, he says. Were just starting the relationship with Bear With Us, Clark explained.
In this case, with no officer present, Steve took action based on the safety of a child, he says we are pretty pleased.