The day after the Mammoth Town Council meeting where it was announced that a second homeowner had been paying someone to feed the bears in her neighborhood 30 pounds of dog and cat food per day, Bruce Kinney, Deputy Regional Manager for the Department of Fish and Game spoke with Town and County officials in a liaison meeting. Kinney spoke for over an hour on the DFG’s Bear Policies.
Kinney explained the difference between green, yellow and red levels of bear policies. Green means the call on a bear is completely non-threatening, yellow means the animal may have done something specific, and red is when the bear shows a clear, aggressive tendency and the person making the report can describe the bear’s threatening actions.
Kinney admitted that the threshold between the yellow and red levels was not black and white. He explained that most bear calls from Mammoth are at the yellow level.
“While often times we are called out on a scene where the bear was described as a public safety [red] bear, we arrive and the scenario is of a depredation [yellow] bear,” Kinney explained. Police Chief Randy Schienle had also stated the night before at the Town Council meeting that what the Town had been calling public safety bears in many of its reports was actually only a depredation bear according to DFG policies. In order to pursue a public safety bear DFG wants to make sure to have plenty of documentation of the bear’s actions.
“So basically they [DFG] want to wait until someone gets hurt before they do anything,” Council member Skip Harvey had asked the night before when he pointed out that the Town needed to realize they were “sitting on a powder keg” with the current bear situation.
People don’t take bear destruction lightly, Kinney said, especially in Mammoth.
“In towns like Mammoth people are often afraid to report a bear’s aggressive action because they do not want to be the person linked to the reason why the bear had to be destroyed,” Kinney said.
Since DFG cannot do much for them at this time, the Town may be looking into contracting with the United States Department of Agriculture to work with some of their trappers that could trap Mammoth’s problem bears and take them outside of the Town limits where they would be destroyed. At this time the only bear with the potential of being destroyed is Blondie, as she is the only bear with a signed depredation permit hanging over her head. DFG does not play any part in the destruction of a bear that is related to a depredation permit. It is up to the property owner who signed the permit to deal with the bear’s destruction. DFG only becomes involved in dispatching when the bear is deemed a public safety bear.
DFG will not relocate a bear that has been habituated to humans because, as Kinney stated, “That’s just putting one person’s problem on another person’s doorstep.” Meanwhile, bear break-ins continue in Mammoth.