As we have reported, over the weekend a mother bear was killed in traffic in Mammoth Lakes. She left two cubs. The lives and fates of those animals has made news this week. Local bear experts say the cubs will die if not rescued. A Fish and Game wildlife biologist has ruled that they can survive and will not be rescued.
Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson confirmed that Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist Tim Taylor and Warden Chad Elliott drove to Mammoth Lakes Monday afternoon to assess the cubs. Chief Watson said Taylor met with him, an officer and Mammoth Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles where the cubs were up in a tree. Chief Watson said Taylor studied the cubs and determined they were over 30 pounds and in his “professional opinion could survive the winter.”
Chief Watson said it was Taylor’s call. The Chief said, “That doesn’t mean I don’t respect the opinion of Officer Luke Schwartzkopf and Steve Searles. Fish and Game makes the final decision. I hope it’s the right one,” said Watson.
Both Schwartzkopf and Searles, who dealt with the orphaned cubs and hundreds of bears in Mammoth, stated that in their experience with bears in town these two babies will not survive the winter. Both of these men had pointed to the fact that the cubs were still suckling from their mother when she died. Although Fish and Game policy indicates that after August 1 cubs dependent on sows should be picked up and rescued, Taylor ruled that the cubs could survive.
Asked about the suckling issue, Chief Watson said he mentioned that to Taylor who claimed the cubs were also eating natural foods. Chief Watson said, “It’s their call. I appreciate the fact that a wildlife biologist evaluated them.”
Informed sources have said that Fish and Game relies on data from studies that say fist year cubs can survive the winter. It is believed the studies were not done in Mammoth Lakes or Tahoe at elevations of 8500 feet with severe winters. Fish and Game policy also discusses dealing with these issues on a case by case basis. In this case, food is scacre, it’s a drought, the cubs’ mother was lactating and the orphaned cubs are small.
Searles had arranged for the cubs to go to Tahoe Bear Rescue, but due to the Fish and Game decision that will not happen. While Sacramento Fish and Game has talked to us, they are not on scene and local Fish and Game has refused to speak to media. In fact, on scene the day of the bear cub incident, the warden refused to talk to media on scene.