Witnesses said Fish and Game warden refused to save orphaned cubs

One of the surviving bear cubs photographed by Gene Stephan of Rough and Ready.

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.


97 Responses to Witnesses said Fish and Game warden refused to save orphaned cubs

  1. MUSTANG September 22, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    This the kid that graduated from the academy last year? If so, he seriously needs some mentoring. Very green and not experienced enough to ask for help. Lots of bad decisions recently.

    • John Delgado September 23, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

      This “Puke” of a Game warden needs to be FIRED FIRED FIRED immediately, what blatant incompetency, obviously the Fool cares more about his overpaid pension Fund Sad Sad Sad 🙁

    • Baby Jesus September 24, 2012 at 9:51 am #

      Yeah! I’ve got a good idea!
      Maybe “Friends” of the Inyo can receive a grant (2 million or so) to help save helpless forest orphans from the harsh winter… or from evil hungry coyotes…

  2. Big AL September 22, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    What were people going to be charged with, if they did the right thing for these animals? Especially since it seems that policy allows for them to be taken to a rehabilitation facility. This doesn’t make sense, hopefully someone can shed some light on this as far as fish and game is concerned, this just doesn’t make sense.

    Hopefully someone from fish and game will respond here. Benett and company will be hard pressed to get answers from Fish and Game.

    • Big AL September 23, 2012 at 8:39 am #

      That is exactly what I was thinking Mustang, a problem that I see with the younger wardens, and LEO’s now days, that seems to be more prevalent. As I have posted in some other threads, some newly fielded officers and wardens can not seem to apply some common sense and leeway to their decisions, when needed.

      As for mentoring, yes definitely needed, but I think this is proof, that the academies need to do some serious rethinking how they are teaching these people now days.

      We see so much of this in all aspects of law enforcement these days, the law seems to be more hard core, and less protect and serve. Just saying .. because I know there are those who serve and protect, don’t get me wrong.

  3. Mammothite September 22, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

    Warden Wietzel has no heart. This all about him using his power to stick it to the Town of Mammoth Lakes, it’s successful bear program that makes DFG look stupid and Steve Searles who started the program.

    Wietzel can puff up and threaten all he wants. There is no way District Attorney Tim Kendall would prosecute anyone for rescuing the bear cubs and taking them to a DFG licensed bear rescue facility. What law has been broken if it is DFG’s policy to save cubs like this?

    I hope someone who witnessed this incident files a personnel compalint against Wietzel for not following DFGs own policy.

    I also hope any any citizen who happens to run into Wietzel exercises their first amendment rights to to their loudest extent short of punching out this wannabe tough guy POS.

    Anyone who has pictures or film of the bears or this incident should pass them on to Benett so our community can see the bears and Wietzel in action.

    Benett, any word on where the accident took place and where the cubs are screaming while they starve to death?

    • Benett Kessler September 23, 2012 at 8:35 am #

      Steve Searles indicated that it was on Meridian near 203.

  4. Walter Winchell September 22, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    “And on a related note, Warden William Wietzel felt so good about staring down MLPD and sentencing two defenseless Infant Bear Cubs to death, he went home and kicked his dog and beat his wife”. (Sarcasm off)

    • John Delgado September 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      Naw, Wietzel went home and wached more of his Faces of Death videos, the guy is obsessed with watching those videos…

  5. Chris W. September 22, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    Here is am example of someone who should not be in the job position. I would have taken the cubs and told wanna be warden Wietzel to go pound sand and bring his supervisor.

  6. Sasha September 22, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    Wouldn’t it have been less cruel to shoot them rather than let them starve or run into traffic where they could have caused an accident?
    Just wait until this hit the news wires and oh, it will go national maybe even international…it will be ugly.

    • Walter Winchell September 23, 2012 at 9:39 am #

      Great Idea Sasha! Everyone should Email this story to every news outlet they can think of.

      • Sasha September 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

        Oh, I have sent this story to plenty of news, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Might take a day or two for the whole weight of public opinion to fall but it will. Fish and Game better brace for impact.

    • upthecreek September 23, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

      just sent it over to Drudge

      if true this guy should be fired

  7. Big Rick OB September 22, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    I remember a story about another hard*ss game warden that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in Idaho, back in 1981. THAT story didn’t have a happy ending either.

    • Wayne Deja September 23, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

      Big Rick….Looked up the incident you mention in Idaho back in 1981….another case of some Law Enforcement “wanna-be” finding a venue where they think they can push people around….sometimes don’t end so well for them,does it ?..A couple years ago,I was fishing a local creek and was approached by one of these “Law Enforcement” DFG wardens and was asked for my fishing license,and when I opened my wallet to show him,he proceeded to ball me out for “not following instructions” and displaying it above my waist and visable without being asked for it…I explained to him that I once pinned it to my cap,but ending up losing it and having to jump through a bunch of hoops in order to get a duplicate…didn’t matter,he stated how I was not following “his instructions he was “telling me”…..What a great way to spend a day fishing….some “Law Enforcement” agent following you around,balling you out,and acting as if I was breaking a law…I think the badge and gun make them feel like they are the boss-man of the wilderness…

      • Bob Loblaw September 24, 2012 at 8:46 am #

        So, in summation, you were breaking the law, and he chastised you for breaking the law, but you explained the law shouldn’t apply to you because you’re special. Then he let you go without a ticket for breaking the law. What a jerk.

        • Wayne Deja September 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

          Bob Loblaw……HUH ?…….I wasn’t breaking no laws…..Do you think I could have been arrested by this “wanna-be” because I wasn’t “displaying ” my fishing license ?…get real….In this type of thing,all he could do was tell me what he did…couldn’t “arrest” me,couldn’t draw his weapon,….AND couldn’t fine me,or issue a citation…all he could do is…A….ask to see the license….or B…ask to see the license and then be a jack-ass with what he said after I showed it to him…which he did….to this day,when I go fishing,my license remains in my wallet…

          • Wayne Deja September 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

            Bob Lowlaw..Another thing I should have said..or asked you, since you labeled ME the jerk….In your opinion,why do you think they try to “require” you to wear ,or display your fishing license above your waist ,and not in a safer place,maybe like a wallet ? My guess would be it’s so the so-called “officer” can maybe visibly see it from a distance, and won’t have to take the extra time and effort to get out of his vehicle,maybe have to walk a little bit down to a creek or a fishing hole to “check things out”..Well,in my case,that just won’t work…if they want to “check things out”,come on down to where I’m at,and I’ll be glad to show them what they want.

        • Tourbillon September 25, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

          You missed the point entirely Loblaw. Deja wasn’t “breaking the law”, he was recounting something common today but almost unheard of years ago: domineering cops forgetting they are our employees and thinking they are our sovereigns. They, and you, need to get your heads on right.

          • Wayne Deja September 25, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

            BREAKING NEWS…….The “rule” of displaying your license above the waist in a visible place is no longer in effect !!!!!!…Boy,THAT is good news…now ,when I go wet a line,I no longer have to risk years of incarseration in a Federal Prison if I keep my license in my wallet….

      • SierraFan September 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

        Typical of the DFG type or any other security personnel with a gun and badge lacking the authority of a real cop.

        • Big AL September 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

          you’re wrong about DFG lacking authority, they are duly sworn officers of the state of California. They can even write you a traffic ticket.

          • Mammothite September 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

            Fish and Game are not real cops. Unless it has changed, they do not have peace officer powers off duty.

          • Wayne Deja September 25, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

            Big Al…If I were driving on the highway and got pulled over by a DFG employee,first thing I would do, IF I decided to pull over,when I quit chuckling,what I would do is ask to speak to his commanding officer,or seargant, before I said a word,or before I signed anything…which would be a totally legal thing to do….and we all know how long it would take for that to happen…good chance we’d both be pitching a tent alongside the highway and having a BBQ while we’re waiting.

          • Big AL September 26, 2012 at 8:09 am #

            Wayne, as far as a DFG employee, other than a warden, yes unless that person is asking for my hunting or fishing license, which they can ask for .. but they wouldn’t be pulling me over on the highway for it.

            As for a warden, yes they can ask to see your license .. and before you get embarrassed to say the least, you might want to do some serious checking to find out what they can and can not do in regard to highway stops?

          • Wayne Deja September 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

            Big Al…It’s all actually a mute point for a couple reasons…First,I consider myself a good driver,and very rarely get pulled over…one ticket in 42 years of driving…second,I’m not claiming to be a tough guy or nothing,or an authority hater…but if I were attempted to be pulled over on the highway,the vehicle pulling me over better look like Law Enforcement( black and white or all white,with those little flashing BLUE lights),and if DFG Law Enforcement does have those BLUE lights along with the white and red,once he started telling me what he felt I did wrong,and warrenting a stop, I’d ask for Law Enforcement(Sheriff or CHP),or his superior before I said a word or signed anything….That’s just how it would have to be.

        • Andrew November 9, 2016 at 10:54 am #

          Wrong. Game wardens are peace officers and federally deputized and can enforce all laws.

    • Fred September 23, 2012 at 11:41 pm #

      This is a heinous thing to say. Claude Dallas killed in cold blood. He had been poaching and illegally trapping for several years. It is disgusting that he was made a folk hero by so many people. People here are defending two bear cubs and don’t mention that without wildlife law enforcement those two cubs may have never been born. Then implying that the murders of William Pouge and Conley Elms were somehow justified? Dallas should have been convicted for murder and after serving just 24 years in jail. Protect cubs and then disregard human life, now there is something that makes a lot of sense. Mentioning the murderer of two people in this context sickens me.

      • Fred September 24, 2012 at 11:01 am #

        Correction to the above. Claude Dallas was not convicted of murder, he was convicted for manslaughter. He served only 24 years for these two murders in spite of his escape from an Idaho prison in the mid 1980’s. Twelve years for each person he killed, he should have received a life sentance. More information on this story is available here:


      • SierraFan September 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

        I’m pretty sure they weren’t justifying it Fred!

        • Fred October 1, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

          “about another hard*ss game warden that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in Idaho, back in 1981. THAT story didn’t have a happy ending either.”

          The writer is lumping the local game warden in with the two that were killed in Idaho. The implication is that both stories won’t be a happy ending. I infer this to mean that if the local game warden doesn’t start behaving in a different way that their will be a similar non-happy ending. The writer implies that the Idaho game warden [sic] rubbed people the wrong way and that is why that story did not end happy. If I was a law enforcement officer I would take the writers words as a threat.

          The writer is incorrect as to these Idaho game wardens being hard a**es, they were in fact investigating because of several citizen complaints about Claude Dallas.

  8. Steve K September 23, 2012 at 12:18 am #

    If Warden Weitzel goes against his own departments policy, then why is he still on the payroll? Shouldn’t taxpayers demand the best service from those that are suppose to protect the wildlife on our dime?

  9. Trouble September 23, 2012 at 6:19 am #

    Benett – Is the August 1st policy you refer to new?

    • Benett Kessler September 23, 2012 at 8:33 am #

      Don’t know. Here’s the link – http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/bear/statewidepolicy.html

      • Trouble September 23, 2012 at 9:29 am #

        I tried looking up when the 2071 black bear policy were put into place. But can’t find out when they were put into place. It sure sounds like the game warden here really handled this case totally wrong either way. I was thinking maybe there was a recent change in policy he wasn’t aware of.

        • SierraFan September 23, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

          This guy should be relocated to the beach or some place other than the mountains if he can’t handle the bear situations properly!

          • Big Rick OB September 24, 2012 at 1:06 am #

            He needs to sent to San Francisco where he’ll be put in charge of checking for under-sized lobster in stinkin’ China Town.

  10. longtimesierralocal September 23, 2012 at 7:21 am #

    Can they change their mind about the bear cubs, or did he kill them too cant believe that 🙁 That is unacceptable .

  11. SierraFan September 23, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    This is absolutely disgusting!!! Like you insinuate Big Al, something is fishy here! If this guy had total disregard for the rules that are in place, he needs to be fired immediately! If Steve and the Tahoe Wild Life group knew the laws / rules as they’re stated why didn’t he go against the Weitzel guy or should we say “WEASL”? Do we know what happened to the Cubs? Here 18lb cubs, go fend for yourself!! WHAT!!!!!!???????

  12. Dingo September 23, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    How about turning June Mountain into a wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and educational center?
    I for one, in this case anyway, would risk injury capturing a 14lb. bear cub and taking it to a rescue center a 20 minute drive away bypassing the knuckleheads of the Fish and Game.
    We the people could also practice better driving habits, driving slower, NOT texting or talking on the phone while driving etc.

    • Big AL September 23, 2012 at 9:08 am #

      I think this all comes down to an officer’s decision, failure to act accordingly to the rules and regulations, and to apply a right decision given the circumstances involved.

      But if he was acting as how he thought the situation should be handled according to how he was trained, then you have to wonder about fish and games policies and training.

      On the other hand, it could be just his views on it, how he personally feels it should be, this of course in unacceptable, he has to operate with in the constraints of the law he is sworn to carry out.

      It’s so very sad for the little bears, their well being should have been looked after, that should have been the concern more than anything else. Hopefully someone boxed them up and sent them to Tahoe.

      It would have been right to take the bullet for them, and see that they were saved, as one post suggested. Charges would have been dropped.

  13. Wayne Deja September 23, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    What the witnesses’ and on-lookers (and even Mr.Searles) should have done is ignored this so-called DFG warden Wietzel and challenged his “threats”,and taken matters into their own hands to save these cubs.What would..or could he have done ? This so-called “authority” should be fired from his job.He is a worthless human being that should be living and working in a big-city.

  14. Eastern Sierra Local September 23, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Don’t you know that the Bishop office of Fish and Game makes up their own rules?
    No 1600 agreement for Conway Ranch; No Aquaculture Permit either-clearly in violation of their own rules.
    Taking jurisdiction over irrigation water-contrary to their own rules.
    The Bishop office lost most of it’s management to retirement, promotions, and LADWP and now it’s barely run by an office in either Moreno Valley or Los Alamitos.
    The Bishop Fish and Game is going rogue and no one is their to manage the place. I’m not surprised by this warden making up his own rules, this is status quo for Bishop DFG.

    • Big AL September 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

      ESL … I don’t buy all of that BS, I hope others don’t either … they may have their issues, but all of that is crap. I am not a big fan of some of the game wardens we have for reasons such as this, but to run a line of crap like that on the other people in our local DFG, is just that … crap!

  15. Trouble September 23, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    I would like to hear Steve Searles opinions on what went wrong and why?

  16. ferdinand lopez September 23, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    this weitzel guy sounds like a great candidate for l.a.p.d.,the town of mammoth should take legal action against him,maybe make him pay off mlla

  17. Cindy September 23, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    I am so angered, stunned and heartbroken. When did common sense, compassion and just plain humanity go? Shame on you “warden” William Wietzel, shame on you.
    Please tell me that someone rescued those cubs.

    • Walter Winchell September 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

      They are out in the forest starving to death. It will take 5 days to a week for them to die. DFG could never find them. Searles could in a few hours if things could be worked out legally. There is always the option for persons unknown to take the cubs to an out of state bear rescue facility.

    • sheila September 23, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

      i, too, am worried about the welfare of these cubs. have they been rescued? does anybody know how they are doing and/or where they are?

  18. SierraFan September 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    I think we all agree that these two cubs should have been given the best opportunity to survive in a safe environment (The Lake Tahoe Bear League) and that with the information we have, the “weasel” should probably find a profession that better suits him. Heck, maybe become a prison guard to deal with the criminal as he does with he orphaned Cubs

  19. CL September 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    Unacceptable. If we can suspend/fire police officers for fighting with one another, we can certainly see some disciplinary action taken against Mr. Weitzel for showing gross disregard for the rules of his job and apathy towards the creatures he’s sworn to protect. He is a public servant and he has failed miserably for no reason other than what…arrogance?

    Per the DFG website, the regional manager for this area is Kimberly Nicol, I say we all email our thoughts on this matter


  20. John Barton September 23, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    What does the warden have to say in response to all of this? Has he been contacted yet for comment or at least clarification for his side of the story?

    • Benett Kessler September 23, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

      I am working on getting his phone number. I do want his comments. Historically, most of Fish and Game locally has refused to talk.

  21. salblaster September 23, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    as a lifelong outdoor user iv’e been hunting and fishing and camping since i can remember and have been stopped questioned and searched many times. in the last 10 to 15 years i have noticed a change in attitude from mostly respectful inqueries to officers seeming to be pissed off that i’m even there. they always seem to have a lecture and warning about the way to behave. also you should’nt blame the people on the scene for not standing up to an armed fish and game officer. saying if i was there i would have done something. maybe the charges would be dropped maybe not, charges by the fish and game must be addressed in federal court, that means trips to bakersfield, lawyers, big expenses. as for the officer involved i hope they come down on him hard, the bears around mammoth lakes are part of what makes mammoth the greatest recreation town in america.( in my opinion ). that, good skiing,and extra large peperoni and italian sausage pizza from perry’s umm umm good.

    • Mammoth Knows September 23, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      Violations of the Fish and Game Code are local charges that would be filed or rejected by the local District attorney, Tim Kendall. Anyone who knows Mr. Kendall knows he would most likely tell the DFG to pound sand. He would not be as blunt about it as me.

      The US Attorney in Sacramento will not even take on felony cases from our county. It is VERY doubtful that he would even consider taking on a “Bear Napping” case where the intent was to save a couple of little bear cubs.

      DFG is Dysfunctional from top to bottom and needs to be reorganized and taken over by CHP. They can start with getting rid of Bruce Kenny who I am betting Warden Wietzel consulted with prior to doing what he did. Wietzel was on his phone in his truck with the windows rolled up for quite a long time, most likely talking to Kenny who hates MLPD and Searles. The last thing Kenny would want is for Searles and MLPD to be seen as heros rescuing a couple of cute bear cubs. MLPD should of challanged Wietzel to arrest them and rescued the cubs just like Chief Donnelly did when he started the bear progam in Mammoth. When DFG told Chief Donnelly he would be charged if he continued with his bear program, Donnelly jumped up and said “F@#*ing arrest me!” DFG backed down and agreed to an MOU with MLPD. It would be nice if the new chief had that type of guts.

  22. Jeff Brown September 23, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    Hey officer your a guiltless coward… next time I see you your are going to hear it from my lips. What a TOTAL LOSER! Go back to the city you coward!

  23. Jack September 23, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    I just sent a notification to CNN on this incident. It will be interesting to see if CNN is interested in helping investigate and report on this on a national level.

  24. ferdinand lopez September 23, 2012 at 1:37 pm #


  25. Jack September 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Looks like Warden Witzel just past his one year on the job anniversary.

    From the Sacramento Bee


    August 12, 2011
    New crop of game wardens graduating today

    A new group of state game wardens graduate from the academy today — including several from the Sacramento region.

    The 39 men and women will attend graduation ceremonies in Paradise, Butte County. The class includes 28 cadets who are already hired as wardens by the state Department of Fish and Game and 11 cadets who paid their way through the academy with the hope of becoming game wardens.

    “They represent the department to the hunting and fishing community while protecting valuable natural resources,” said DFG Chief of Enforcement Nancy Foley in a press release.

    Wardens make contact with nearly 300,000 people a year, issuing 15,000 citations. The average warden patrols more than 600 square miles.

    Wardens often act as arbitrators. They also recommend recreational activities and educate the public on the environment.

    Among those graduating:

    Timothy Bolla of Winters, Christopher Cahill of Elk Grove, Ryan Keylock of Sacramento, Jerry Prater of Sacramento, Mark Ratley of Roseville, Andrew Ross of Rocklin, Anthony Russo of Sacramento, Cory Stewart of Sacramento and William Witzel of Elk Grove.

    The DFG teamed with Butte College in 2007 to provide training for prospective wardens.

  26. Big AL September 23, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    No Salblaster, I wasn’t blaming them .. I understand the situation, but in the article it eluded to the fact that people had tried to do something prompting the warden to threaten them with charges. Whether or not they chose to challenge that, was their prerogative. And yes, if it was me I would have challenged him, I would rather have seen them have a chance. I am not like some big animal lover, but I care about animals enough to know this was very wrong. You are right about attitude has changed in recent years, this seems to be an example of the change in attitude.

  27. Tourbillon September 23, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    The warden should be disciplined – he definitely needs serious recalibration, and if he is an experienced warden, he should be dismissed. But if he’s young and inexperienced it means he’s also overly amped like many young cops, who should be straightened out to lead productive lives of respectful, sensible service, not canned outright from over-reactive spite over a stupid rookie mistake. It is now up to DFG leadership to show its quality, starting by not hiding its actions under the cloak of “personnel issue” but letting the community know what disciplinary action was taken. Your credibility with the public hangs in the balance here DFG.

    • Big AL September 23, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

      Good post tourillon, but I think with the newest article on this subject, it is more clearer as to what happened. I do agree though, that Fish and Game needs to really take a proactive stance in this, they are losing much confidence with people.

  28. Wilson September 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    I’d like to know exactly what policies are in place that would legally prevent a CA DFG warden from doing the right thing during a tragedy like the one that occurred Saturday night.

    If there wasn’t a well-defined law on the books that warden William Wietzel was specifically upholding, I believe it’s fair of us to question the motivations of this warden who has taken an oath to “preserve and protect” our state’s wildlife.

    Why would any CA DFG warden flatly refuse the advise / help of our own “Bear Whisper,” Steve Searles; a man who has a well documented sixteen plus year history of “preserving and protecting” our local bears during an incident like this one?

    More importantly, why would this young warden (a fair knock, seeing that warden William Wietzel just graduated from the CA DFG Academy on August 2011)
    http://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/game-wardens-set-to-graduate-from-academy/ dig his heels in and threaten to charge anyone involved in a well coordinated effort by the Tahoe Bear Rescue, Steve Searless and the Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care center in the rescue of these helpless tiny cubs? Were there truly laws to be upheld here, or was this a new warden trying to make a statement?

    And why not try and turn this total tragedy into something of a human-interest story. A shining example of how the CA DFG, local police officials and regional wildlife groups all came together to help our bears. Dare I say something like this:


    And if the cubs didn’t survive the rescue attempt, at least we can sleep at night knowing everyone truly did their best to try and save the little guys. Now, if these two baby cubs get mowed down by a truck later this week, or turn up dead on someone’s yard, the heat should fall squarely on the CA DFG and warden William Wietzel.

    CA Dept. Fish & Game… I beg you to please investigate this case completely so this type of response from your wardens won’t happen again. Don’t let this incident go unchecked. It’s time to do what’s right.

    • Reality Bites September 23, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

      You won’t see this on the next episode of “Wild Justice”. If they were filming in Mammoth the Warden would have driven the cubs to the bear rehab facility personally. Wild Justice is total DFG propaganda. What they do when no camera is rolling shows what they are really about.

      When DFG’s only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. DFG never evolved out of the dark ages.

    • Fred October 1, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      The correct action in regards to land and wildlife management is often not popular. Popularity is not based on sound science. Science predicted the outcome of removing fire from fire dependent ecosystems and when the Forest Service, National Park Service and BLM began to light prescribed fires and let some burn under natural conditions it was quite unpopular. It was absolutely the correct thing to do and the current wildfire situation is a result of not being able to implement the actions, which were solidly based on science, due to popular opinion.

  29. ferdinand lopez September 23, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    who in their right mind would even consider killing two precious orphaned bear cubs,there are too many options available to let them live,searles,the tahoe bear league,zoos,the list goes on and on,its insanity.

  30. Local September 23, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    If what Wietzel did and said was true, he should be let go. Wrong person for that job. Screening for DFG Wardens should include apathy for the humane treatment of animals. Starving to death is not humane, that’s definitely not permissible in the DFG rules and regs. Animals that get trapped are not allowed to starve to death they must be put down within 24 hours.

  31. NekosMom September 23, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    The hell with Warden what’s-his-name. Go back as fast as you can, trap the cubs and get them to the wildlife rehab that was originally going to take them. They are obviously still in that area in their mother’s territory and retracing all the places she has taken them. Cubs don’t forget. You do what is RIGHT for these baby bears despite the pissant Warden and you do everything humanly possible to save the cubs. Deal with the consequences if and when they come up. NEVER let Anyone intimidate you into NOT doing the Right Thing at the time. And of he doesn’t like it, too effing bad! I hope the citizens in this area get a Huge Petition and campaign going to get him fired. He doesn’t belong in that job if he refuses to follow department policies.

    • Diana September 24, 2012 at 11:10 am #

      They can’t charge us all!

  32. Bill September 23, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    A lot of emotional responses to this article, which is understandable.

    Let me state right off the bat that I also feel that these cubs should probably have been rescued, based on the information that I have read. But, I was not there, either….

    All this aside, I have had the opportunity to meet Warden William Weitzel on several occasions and I will say that he does not seem to be the power tripper that many of you suggest. He is young, and polite, and actually respectful in his duties as a warden. He is probably the nicest warden I have met, ever.

    If he was indeed on his phone, in his truck, for quite a while, talking to his supervisor – I am pretty certain that Mr. Weitzel was just following orders from his supervisor and doing what he was told to do.

    The Bishop DFG office, Bruce Kinney, in particular, has a horrible record of rudeness and poor decision making. I have zero faith in his ability to run a Dept. that serves the public, not too mention hunters and anglers.

    This might be a good time to review DFG policy on such matters to prevent this sort of tragedy from occurring again.

    Think about this sow and cubs next time you are speeding down 203 and/or talking on your cell phone while driving around town.

  33. Big AL September 23, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    This is what didn’t make sense to me in all of this .. as I said originally, that the warden’s actions didn’t make sense, yet in relation to the mission of the department, it is policy not to interfere with nature, to let it run it’s course. Which seems to align with the main mission, the protect natural resources, not animals.

    Yet, in a case like this, that way of thinking goes against the mission. These two bear cubs are natural resources, whether or not one can handle that point of view, it is true. These two bear cubs could have been and should have been taken to a facility that would take care of them and to keep them as natural resources.

    The comment, that was supposedly said, referring to … basically feeding the coyotes, was truth how it was seen by the person saying it, it is what he was taught at the academy, this is how it is in the wild, in being part of the food chain.

    This doesn’t make it right in some opinions, but it was reality. As I said earlier, I think there could have been more thought brought to bear in the decision.

    It could be too .. that had this warden went with public opinion and had the cubs taken to a care facility, he would be breaking regulations, again .. I point to the departmental mission, and his training.

    I do see that the second article sheds some more light on the situation with a better picture. It has changed my opinion of this some, merely because i see the other side a little better.

    I’m not saying that he did or didn’t act inappropriately, rather I think there needs to be a better understanding of it. DFG needs to seriously get in the picture and take a serious look at their policies and how they relate to their mission. People need to understand it all as well.

    I think local had some good points … but if I’m right about my feelings of this … it wasn’t inhumane treatment that was meant by the warden, in the wild it is the way, but this was not an entirely natural event with the involvement of man in it, the animals were just unfortunate to have been living in close proximity of man. That .. precludes pursuing the mission statement’s policy of not interfering in this case.

    • Diana September 24, 2012 at 11:09 am #

      Cars are not nature.

  34. John September 24, 2012 at 12:19 am #

    Taking the cubs to a rehab center is interfering with the processes of nature. The mother was killed, this happens in nature all the time and the cubs are then forced to make it on their own or die. We keep marching into natural processes, demanding that our values be forced on nature and in the long run it ends up hurting the very thing we set out to protect in the first place. People were doing this by trying to protect each green tree one at a time and not seeing the entire forest ecosystem, “not seeing the forest for the trees.” The result is excessively dense forests that are now threatened by insects, disease and unnaturally destructive wildfires. Science predicted the results, which we are currently dealing with, in the early 1950’s but since no one listens to scientists and firefighters we painted ourselves into the corner we are now in.

    Getting back to bears. The forest ecosystem around Mammoth Lakes is overpopulated with bears, by a factor in the tens. It would be interesting to know what ecosystem components are being harmed by this overpopulation. Rest assured there is an effect somewhere, the system is likely tweaked and some long term problems are probably in the making, just as the exclusion of wildfire did to the fire dependent ecosystems. The problem with the wildfire situation is that professionals in forestry, fire management, botany, range management and wildlife biology could see the problem due to their education, training and experience long before the public could see it.

    If this situation had occurred in Yosemite or Sequoia-Kings, Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, just to name a few national parks, the bear cubs would have been allowed to fend for themselves. We would not intervene because nature should be allowed to take its course. People seem to be worried that predators would kill the cubs. Now you want to deny a natural predator its food. Where are you when predators die due to our interference. Some would call nature cruel, but what do the words “natural selection” really mean? People should look up the deer management debacle we caused on the North Kaibab Plateau in the 1920’s and see what happens when we force our human values on natural ecosystems.

    I’ve been privileged to watch predators take prey nearly a dozen times in my life, a fawn taken down by a coyote (the doe tried to defend its young but was unsuccessful), a rattlesnake killing a squirrel and swallowing it, birds of prey making kills, bald eagles killing ducks and a few more. The rattlesnake incident occurred when I was in my early teens and just starting the study of biology. I’ve seen dying predators and I’ve seen native songbirds dying because their access to riparian habitat has been eliminated by feral horses.

    I’m not sure of why the warden took the action he did, but I don’t find it to be totally out of line. If he didn’t follow policy one action might be to examine the policy. Was the policy written because of sound biological science or to appease the save every little critter crowd. Just like saving every tree, saving every critter in distress eventually harms other species and the land.

    • Benett Kessler September 24, 2012 at 7:05 am #

      One note – was it letting nature take its course that man’s development (the town, streets, cars) killed the mother bear? Fish and Game’s policy does say cubs dependent on their mother should be rescued.

    • upthecreek September 24, 2012 at 10:29 am #

      since when does the Government do anything right?

      I can count 17 Trillion reasons why they are an epic Failure..


    • Private Eye September 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      Are you the same John (District Ranger) of the USFS that is closing all the roads. you sure sound like him .

      • Big AL September 25, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

        So what does that prove Private Eye?

      • John October 1, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

        No I’m not. I don’t work for the Forest Service.

    • bentchick September 25, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

      The only excessively dense thing about this whole article is your comment!
      The mother bear got hit on HWY 203…. not in the back country…… in case you don’t understand what “rehabilitation” is, it’s rescuing an injured OR endangered animal from potential harm (like wandering back and forth on the highway looking for mom). Once that animal is deemed fit to return to it’s natural habitat, it’s released back into the “wild”. Then the “natural course” of it’s life goes on.
      I have no problem with the cycle of life and natural predators and I understand that animals die every day on our highways, but did you take into the consideration the harm and damage done to the vehicles and their drivers when an animal is on the highway.
      Most people coming to our area are from the city. They are used to having dogs, cats, and an occasional raccoon or coyote run across they’re highways. Most visitors may never even see a bear while visiting. Most visitors “will” swerve when they see a larger animal in the road. Many of the deaths on our highways are not from actually hitting the animal, but from swerving and rolling their vehicle or hitting another vehicle.
      I’m sure that part of the policy of removing those cubs to a rehabilitation facility is to protect the public as well as those cubs.

      • Big AL September 25, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

        I’m sure the policy of removing the cubs to a rehabilitation center has nothing to do with protecting the public … I’m sure it has something to do with the welfare of the cubs.

    • Big AL September 25, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

      Good post John, thank you.

  35. sierragrl September 24, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    Too bad the Bear Whisperer cameras weren’t filming that night…bet the outcome would’ve been different. What a train wreck DFG is…

  36. John September 24, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    There are too many bears for the available habitat. Natural factors that keep the population in balance are lacking. The availability of human food has increased the amount of protein available to sows resulting in a higher reproduction rate. Bears eat natural foods as well even though human food is available. These natural foods include berries, fruits, grasses, nuts and buds. The excess number of bears consume these foods in higher amounts causing repercussions throughout the ecosystem as there are other animals and factors within it that depend on these foods as well.

    The unnaturally high population increases the likelihood of human/bear interactions and bear vs. vehicle accidents are one result. The problem is not so much the roads and vehicles, it is numbers of bears.

    • Local September 24, 2012 at 11:26 am #

      Big AL, our wildlife are considered natural resources. Protection of our “natural resources is the DFG mission. If “letting nature take it’s course” is relevant, perhaps DFG should take into consideration that Automobile vs Bear is not a really “natural” event, and intervention is our responsibility to save the cubs. Wildlife has not had enough time to adapt to the threat of the automobile.

      • SierraFan September 24, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

        Very true Local!!

      • Big AL September 25, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

        Um Local .. I think I have expressed that amongst my thoughts on the matter.

      • Big AL September 25, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

        As for wildlife adapting to the threat of automobiles, I think they have had roughly 90 years, give or take a decade.

        I don’t think that adaptation will happen .. some individuals will learn some sense of what threat the roads are to them, but over all .. I think animals don’t have the understanding of it .. If you’re thinking along the lines of evolution, in that process .. maybe?

    • Bill September 24, 2012 at 11:38 am #

      Good points, John.

    • HighSierra395 September 26, 2012 at 10:21 am #

      Perhaps there is an excess number of humans…..afterall, we are the ones encroaching on THEIR habitat, not the other way around.

  37. Diana Lavery September 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    After numerous calls, I have just been notified by DF&G that they have decided to review this case.
    . A Mr.Tim Taylor, wildlife biologist for Mono County has been instructed to locate and assess the cubs condition for transport to the rehab center for eventual re release into the forest.
    Steve Searles and the MLPD will help coordinate this effort.
    I applaud the efforts of all of the agencies involved to help resolve this matter.

    • Benett Kessler September 24, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

      Diana, Please see our latest posted story. Tim Taylor did not agree that the cubs should be rescued.

    • Big AL September 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

      Diana, is this a second contact by DFG to assess them?

  38. dave September 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    Call and report this negligent incident (559) 243-4005

  39. John October 1, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    For those of you who commented about the authority of a Department of Fish and Game warden to pull you over on the highway here is the correct information. DFG wardens are California Peace Officers and can and do enforce the vehicle code, the penal code and any others that may be involved in the course of their duties. Forest Service, BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service law enforcement officers are, by permission of the state, California State Peace Officers as well. All of these officers have their P.O.S.T. certificates (Peace Officer Standards and Training) as do CHP officers, county deputies and municipal police officers. DFG warden vehicles have a different logo on it than the remainder of the department and have blue lights in their light bars as do the federal officers mentioned. Not pulling over for any of these officers is a violation of law. In the case of the federal officers not pulling over can be prosecuted under state law, followed by federal prosecution for, one not obeying a lawful order, and, two interfering with a federal officer.

    As I mentioned I do not work for the Forest Service and I’m not to be confused with the District Ranger of the Mammoth Ranger District.

  40. John October 1, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

    For those of you who favor intervention for bear cubs in cases like this because not doing so is cruel, consider this. Male bears eat their own offspring as well as the offspring of other female bears. Yes, cannibalism exists in the bear population. The rate of this killing is difficult to research due to the difficulty of attaching radio location devices to growing cubs. A very well conducted study in Arizona found that 47% of the mortality in a cubs first year was due to cannibalism.

    According to human values this is cruel. It is not cruel, it is one more element of natural selection. Intervention to eliminate cruelty results in a weaker population less able to survive winters and varying quantities of food produced in a given year. Research has already indicated that bears of the size and age of those involved in this accident can survive on their own.

    Intervention will only modify the natural selection process as has the introduction of human food to the diet of many species of wildlife in the Mammoth Lakes area. The bears involved in this accident are likely the result of this introduction and the bear population is already “not natural.” The removal of human food for bears in the Mammoth Lakes area is already killing bears that depended on human food for survival. Should we return to unsecured trash containers so that this “cruel” starvation will be avoided? Should we round up the male bears after they have impregnated the females to insure they won’t commit the “cruel” act of cannibalism?

  41. John October 1, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    Many people posting here choose to vilify the warden and DFG. If you can’t keep your discussions focused on the issues rather than the people, then you are really not debating and exchanging ideas effectively. If you can only vilify others then stop complaining about our Congress. They don’t stick to issues, rather they question the character, intelligence and looks of the person that presents a perspective that differs from their own. They really reflect the population that elects them don’t they?


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.