- The bear robbed a convenience store three times, and a Safeway once.
- The 16-year-old male was relocated to the wilderness and outfitted with a GPS tracking collar.
A Lake Tahoe bear’s months-long crime spree has come to a close after officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife trapped and moved him to a “large expanse of wild, suitable bear habitat.” The bear, a 16-year-old male, has a poorly healed broken leg and took to stopping in stores throughout the fall for snacks. The whole story is a big mood, but also pitiable. Bears are apex predators. They’re massive, brutal animals capable of eating up to 90 pounds of food a day before tucking in for hibernation.
Human encroachment reduced this poor guy to carb-loading with tortilla chips he stole from a Safeway.
An Increasing Problem for Wildlife
The technical term is “habituated” when bears lose their fear of humans and start living as the people do. The frequent outcome of habituated animals is someone gets hurt or killed, and authorities euthanize the animal in response.
People can’t help but pack-bond with just about anything. Any time a Roomba gets stuck on the edge of a rug, people overflow with empathy. So naturally, it delights us to see a bear, a species with some very human mannerisms, cracking open snacks in a convenience store aisle. No small amount of us dream of a world where we live alongside animals who want to be our best friends.
But they don’t want to be our friends. They’re wild animals, and they think our clothes and haircuts are stupid. And it’s a pretty dark day when we’ve encroached so deeply into their habitats that bears are eating chips in the Safeway parking lot.
The bear stopped into a Kings Beach gas station three times; once the employee attempted to scare the bear away, but he wasn’t having any of it. You can see the frustration in the employee’s body language when the bear returns for the third time. It takes some kind of guts for a person to willingly stand between a wild animal and snacks.
So Long, See Ya Later
Fish and Wildlife gave it a bizarre send-off, shooting it with beanbags to drive it into the woods. I guess that’ll make it afraid of people? Still, it looks like a guy who was really looking forward to shooting a bear that day. A spokesperson for BEAR League told the local CBS news that the relocation wasn’t ideal.
“I think this was not good for the bear,” said Ann Bryant, “If he was taken to another bear’s habitat, that other bear is going to be territorial. This bear is compromised. It’s crippled. He’s crippled.”
The BEAR League is a grassroots organization that doesn’t seem to have any formal credentials for that kind of work. They were the subject of a 2015 lawsuit for cyberstalking and cyberbullying a couple after they called the Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding a bear breaking into their car. A state senator also requested an order of protection due to harassment from The BEAR League after the DFW trapped a habituated bear on his property.
The bear will probably be fine in the Tahoe wilderness, but it’s now sporting a GPS collar so wildlife officials can intervene before he makes another snack run.