In Mammoth Lakes Saturday night, a mother bear was killed in a traffic accident. She left two very small cubs. The Department of Fish and Game warden who responded, William Wietzel, stated, according to those on scene, that the cubs could “starve and be eaten by coyotes.” He refused to allow the Tahoe Bear rescue or Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care take them. This, in spite of the fact that Fish and Game policy clearly states that orphaned cubs found after August first, dependent on the sow should be “picked up and sent to wildlife rehab.”
According to those at the accident scene, arrangements had been made for the baby bears to go to the Tahoe Bear Rescue. They were too young to survive on their own, weighing about 18 pounds each. Those on scene said that the Fish and Game warden said, “If you do anything to rescue these cubs, you will be charged.”
In addition to Tahoe Bear Rescue, Cindy Kamler of Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care was also ready to take the cubs. Mammoth Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles said that the mother bear, named Burgundy through his work with the animal, and her two cubs were caught in traffic on Highway 203. He said the sow rammed a truck and was killed. “This,” he said, “was an accident. What happened next was not.”
Searles said he tried to get Warden Weitzel to allow the cubs to be rescued. When he refused to do that, Searles tried to get him to leave the mother’s body in the forest for the cubs to suckle. He refused, Searles said, and took the bear’s body to the dump. Searles called the warden’s actions “a horrible, horrible, calloused decision.”
According to the Department of Fish and Game’s Statewide Black Pear Policy 2071, posted on the internet, cubs that are orphaned, dependent on their mother, and not imprinted by people, should be sent to Wildlife Rehabilitation. The policy also says that provisions must be made for the “capture, transportation, timing of release and financial resources for the capture, care and release of the animal, including Department costs.” In this case, Searles had arranged and Tahoe Bear Rescue had agreed to handle all of the details required by policy.
The Fish and Game policy also says that orphaned cubs that are candidates for rehabilitation “will be transported in a secure container as quickly as possible to the rehabilitation facility where they will be held in secure confinement.” Those who witnessed the incident in Mammoth said they were sickened by the cruelty of Fish and Game.
We have emailed Sacramento Fish and Game for an explanation.