Fisherman at Pyramid Lake may have thought feeding a wandering bear was being one with nature, but what they were doing was setting a deadly course.
On Sunday, the black bear (similar to the one pictured at right) left the lakeside after the airborne snacks stopped coming and went toward the picnic grounds, looking for a second course. He had come to expect food from humans because they often left ice chests out when they went on hikes or abandoned their leftovers from picnics.
His learned behavior cost him his life.
Fish and Game spokesman Harry Morse said that the bear had been in the area several times over the last week. Sheriff's deputies had also responded to calls of the bear wandering near the parking lot or sitting in a tree near the entrance over the last week. The bear always lumbered off into the hills, only to return and forage for food.
Morse said that early last week, the bear was shot with a tranquilizer dart and moved into the back country, but found its way back.
"If people leave unsecured food sources, over a long period of time, the bears develop a habituation. Some avoid people, but some don't."
"On Sunday, we responded to a call that a bear had been charging at people to eat their food," he continued. "The bear had been coming into the picnic areas and been seen been at the lake. We had no choice but to euthanize it."
Deputies at the lake told Fish and Game wardens that they saw the fisherman tossing anchovies at the bear while they angled along the shore. It is illegal to feed bears in California because of the hazards to public safety, penalties include fines and jail time.
"I lay this right at the doorstep of the people who fed him," Morse said.
California Fish and Game launched the "Keep Me Wild" program in 2003 to educate people who live near wildlife, with information that encourages safety for both humans and the wild animals they encounter.
The following are some tips for "bear country"
Bears and other animals are attracted to anything edible or smelly.
- Store garbage in bear-proof containers, or store garbage in your garage until pick-up.
- Keep food indoors or in airtight and odor-free containers.
- Put away picnic leftovers; clean BBQ grills.
- Keep pet food inside, and bird feeders away.
- Pick up fallen tree fruit as soon as possible, or protect fruit trees with electric fencing.
- Remove cosmetic fragrances and other attractants, including bird feeders and compost piles.
- Install or request bear-proof trash containers.
Bear Country Precautions
- Keep a close watch on children, and teach them what to do if they encounter a bear.
- While hiking, make noise to avoid a surprise encounter with a bear.
- Never keep food in your tent.
- Store food and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle.
- Keep a clean camp by cleaning up and storing food and garbage immediately after meals.
- Use bear-proof garbage cans whenever possible or store your garbage in a secure location with your food.
- Never approach a bear or pick up a bear cub.
- If you encounter a bear, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to appear as large as possible.
- If attacked, fight back.
- If a bear attacks a person, immediately call 911.
When wild animals are allowed to feed on human food and garbage, they lose their natural ways - often resulting in death for the animal.
For more information on the California Fish and Game Department's program, "Keep Me Wild," click here .