For many years, local Fish and Game officials have opposed the Town of Mammoth’s methods of bear management and Steve Searles’ work. Surprisingly, Fish and Game’s Statewide Bear Co-ordinator holds a more balanced view.
Marc Kenyon oversees bear, mountain lion and wild pig issues for Fish and Game. When asked if he had seen the Animal Planet show, Bear Whisperer and if he were familiar with Mammoth’s efforts, Kenyon said yes to both. He also said, “I believe that aversive conditioning of black bears is appropriate in certain circumstances.”
Kenyon said he believes that what he called “nave bears” or those not habituated to human food, can be changed. He said this has been documented in scientific literature. Kenyon said once bears make a habit of living and eating around humans, change becomes very difficult but no impossible. He said sometimes aversion conditioning can work with “multiple events”.
Asked if, in fact, Fish and Game is open to this type of management, Kenyon said the Department is interested in studies in Mammoth Lakes and Tahoe.
The wildlife coordinator quickly added that education of the public is the main key to bear management. “Community effort is important,” he said. “People need to understand bears and how to live with them.”
Kenyon made it clear that he has an open mind on bear management. He said he personally does aversion training to either alter bear behavior in relation to human food or to remove a bear in trouble in a situation.