Starting next week, a documentary crew that works with the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet is expected to be in Mammoth to film the famous Mammoth Wildlife Management Program and former Wildlife Management Officer Steve Searles.
Two years ago, this would have been a relatively straight forward story that would have brought positive national and international media attention to Mammoth. Now with Searles fired by the town and a new non-profit bear program still attempting to get off the ground, its unclear whether the film crew will come away with a show about wildlife and people living together in a modern town, or a show about our local dirty laundry.
The Town of Mammoth and the former wildlife officer parted ways after Searles was fired by the Police Department over a year ago. Bad blood from that incident has kept the town and Searles from reaching a new agreement. The Town Council has since decided to hand the bear program over to anyone who would take it off their hands.
The new non-profit called Bear-with-Us, is headed by Joe Parrino. Bear with Us is still in its infancy. The police have called Parrino out on a few bear calls, but he cannot legally haze a bear with the non-lethal techniques pioneered by Searles when he worked under the Police Department.
Given that the new bear program is severely limited in what it can do to haze bears and other wildlife, Steve Searles has not committed to joining the new group. Parrino says that his plan is to hire Searles to work with the animals, but with the various legal constraints on the non-profit, its unclear what Searles could actually do if he were to sign on to work with Parrino.
How this shakes out locally is yet to be seen. Parrino is currently looking to raise seed money to get Bear With Us off the ground. Its also unclear, what, if anything, the documentary crew will be able to make of the remains of a once successful program.