Media Contact: Lt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Enforcement, (916) 651-6692
Two northern California men have been sentenced to fines and jail time for unlawfully killing bears and selling their gall bladders and other parts for profit. Peter George Vitali, 56, of Pioneer and Arthur Martin Blake, 59, of River Pines, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of illegally taking wildlife for profit in an El Dorado County courtroom last month.
The court ordered Vitali to pay a $12,500 fine and Blake to pay a $5,000 fine. Both men will be required to serve 30 days in jail and were sentenced to an additional 36 month probationary period.
“This case is an example of the challenges our officers face,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Stacey LaFave. “Heavy fines and jail time send a strong message to poachers who unlawfully take and profit from California’s natural resources.”
Vitali and Blake were arrested by CDFW wildlife officers in April 2013, after they were found to be in possession of 20 large bear claws and three bear gall bladders in the El Dorado National Forest.
Evidence developed during the investigation suggested the suspects recently killed three bears, likely a sow and two cubs. The claws, liver and gall bladder had been removed from the sow and only the liver and gall bladder were removed from the younger two bears.
California Fish and Game laws forbid the sale, purchase or possession for sale of any bear part, including claws and gall bladders. The bile contained inside bear gall bladders is believed by some to have medicinal properties and is sold on the black market. Under California law, possession of more than one bear gall bladder is prima facie evidence that the bear gall bladders are possessed for sale.
An Ojai woman sustained minor injuries to her arm and back after being attacked by a bear while walking her dogs at about 7 a.m. Friday.
Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens confirmed the attack at approximately 3:30 p.m. today and were on scene and continuing the investigation.
The victim, a 50-year-old woman, was walking her three dogs on a road just north of the Ojai city limit adjacent to national forest when she apparently surprised a California black bear described as cinnamon brown and approximately 250 pounds with a cub described as 45 to 50 pounds.
The bears ran across the road ahead of her but the sow returned and swiped at the woman’s wrist, causing an approximately one- to two-inch laceration. The bear began to leave, then returned and charged the female who turned her back to the bear. The bear knocked her down an embankment causing several six-inch abrasions which appeared to be claw marks.
The bear followed her down the hill and sniffed at the victim who sat still with her head in her lap. She stated the she could feel the bear’s breath on her neck. The bear left after about 10 seconds.
The woman got herself up the embankment and called law enforcement. She did not seek medical treatment and has asked to remain anonymous.
DFG will attempt to capture the bear. Some trails in the area may be closed to hikers.
There is no indication that this is the mother of the bear cub that was found and rescued in Ojai on Friday and transported to a wildlife care center over the weekend.
Since 1980, there have been about 15 confirmed bear attacks in California. The most recent was in the fall of 2010 at the Fallen Leaf Lake Campground near Lake Tahoe.
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Media Contact: Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and two wildlife organizations worked together over the weekend to save the life of a bear cub near Ojai.
DFG wardens received a call from the Ojai Raptor Center in Ventura County about a young bear cub that had been brought to their facility. The cub was brought to the Ojai Raptor Center by an employee of a nearby ranch who had seen the cub without its mother for three days and thought it had been orphaned or abandoned.
Upon arrival the warden and wildlife rehabilitation personnel examined the cub and determined it to be a female, approximately 3-months-old and weighing just 10 pounds. The cub was alert and otherwise healthy.
The warden inspected the area where the bear cub had been seen over the past several days and did see large bear tracks but did not find any evidence (scat, rooting damage, bed/denning behavior, etc.) of a female sow in the area.
Based on the evidence DFG concluded the bear cub was abandoned or orphaned by its mother and due to its small size would not survive in the wild without her.
The cub was taken to The California Wildlife Center in Calabasas, another DFG-permitted wildlife rehabilitation facility, where it was evaluated by a wildlife veterinarian. With concurrence of DFG wildlife veterinarians the bear cub was approved as an excellent candidate for rehabilitation and release. The bear cub was held at the California Wildlife Center for the weekend and on Monday morning the cub was transported by DFG natural resource volunteers to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, where it will be cared for over the winter before release back into the wild.
As the state agency responsible for the care and management of wildlife, DFG’s preference is to keep animals in the wild whenever possible. In special circumstances the department has partners that provide support and services to help injured, orphaned or abandoned wildlife return to their natural habitat.
Media Contacts: Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944 Cindy Reyes, Executive Director, California Wildlife Center, (818) 222-2658
Media Contact: Pat Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 651-2084
Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens continue to investigate the death of a bear shot and found dead on a Lake Tahoe beach near Homewood on July 30.
The investigating warden determined the bear was shot at close range and that the type of injury sustained by the bear is indicative of a wound that would bleed severely, leaving obvious evidence at the location where it was shot.
The investigating warden thoroughly searched, but did not locate blood or evidence that a firearm was discharged on any of the properties surrounding the beach where the bear was found dead. Wardens continue to follow up on other leads, including many tips from the Tahoe community, and hope to resolve the case as soon as possible.
DFG appreciates public interest in this poaching crime and understands the depths of emotions it has stirred. However, rumors, false information and Internet postings that encourage citizens to take matters into their own hands have the potential to complicate this ongoing investigation.
“Residents of Homewood have every right to be outraged about this bear’s death,” said DFG Capt. Brian Naslund. “As much as we want to bring this poacher to justice, we cannot prove a poaching crime with hearsay and rumor.”
A final report will be submitted to the Placer County District Attorney for consideration, once the investigation has concluded.
Anyone with specific information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of the bear shooter is encouraged to call DFG’s CalTIP at (888) 334-2258. Callers may remain anonymous.
Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens responded quickly Tuesday morning and relocated a bear that has been getting into Southern California trash cans.
The 400-pound bear has been sighted multiple times around the Glendale area in the last three weeks. This morning, it was cornered in a La Crescenta backyard giving DFG officials the opportunity to safely tranquilize and remove it. It was then transported to the Angeles National Forest for release back into the wild.
The bear appears to be a healthy male about three years old. DFG has been monitoring the bear in this area for several weeks and working with local law enforcement and DFG biologists to balance public safety needs with the desire to safely move the bear to suitable habitat.
“The cooperative effort paid off this morning with a successful removal of the bear without injury, to the animal or any of the surrounding public,” said DFG Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorf. “We are obviously very pleased that the bear will be released and that it was done safely.”
When wild animals are allowed to feed on human food and garbage, they lose their natural ways, often resulting in death for the animal. Bears and other animals are attracted to anything edible or smelly. Humans can take these steps to prevent attracting bears and other animals to their homes or campsites:
Store garbage in bear-proof containers or in the 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.
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.
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944
Marc Kenyon, DFG Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3515
Janice Mackey, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8908
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has completed its 2012 yearling bear release program by returning six orphaned cubs to the wild where they were born. The cubs were found in various locations around the state in the summer months of 2011 and were rehabilitated at a licensed care facility in Lake Tahoe prior to being judged ready to return to the wild.
All six cubs, four males and two females, were in distress and weighed between 15 – 30 pounds when found. Two brother cubs that were found by hikers in the Fresno area had lost their mother to the arrow of a poacher, while another cub was found bawling in a farmer’s pear tree in San Luis Obispo. The others were victims of some other unfortunate circumstance.
“One of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had at DFG is to return a bear back into its environment and live the way natured intended it,” DFG Bear Program Coordinator Marc Kenyon said. “The bear rehabilitation program at Lake Tahoe is completely funded by generous donations and passionate volunteers. Our hope is that we can take learnings from facilities like this and keep bears from becoming public nuisances.”
To be eligible for rehabilitation, a cub must still be dependent upon its mother and not habituated. DFG works with the non-profit Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care (LTWC) organization – the only licensed bear program in California to rehabilitate qualified cubs. At the facility, cubs learn how forage for real bear food such as berries, acorns, fish, grubs and insects. Human contact is kept to a minimum or is non-existent.
When the yearling bears leave, each has tripled its size or more. Most weigh from 45 -80 pounds, depending upon their body type and the condition they arrived in.
“Our hope is that these cubs will wake up to bountiful buffet of spring food and become productive members of California’s thriving bear population,” Kenyon said. “Regardless if it’s six bears or 30,000, every bear in California is important.”
Upon release, each cub is given a final health check up which includes taking hair and blood samples, and is fitted with a radio transmitter to track its movements for the next year. Yearlings are placed in man-made dens with bedding used from the LTWC to give them some familiarity.
In most circumstances, DFG recommends that people leave wildlife alone, including removing attractants from their properties. If this is not an option, DFG should be contacted. For more information, please see www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/.
Media Contacts: Jason Holley, DFG Supervising Wildlife Biologist, (916) 212-1663 Brian Naslund, DFG Warden Captain, (916) 358-2908 Marc Kenyon, DFG Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3515 Dana Michaels, DFG Communications, (916) 322-2420
The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) reminds people enjoying the Lake Tahoe Basin to take precautions to avoid black bear encounters. This area is prime black bear habitat, and many of these wild animals are not afraid of humans. Recently, a bear had to be killed after a man in his tent was injured as the bear tried to break in.
Bears are constantly searching for food, which humans inadvertently make obtainable to them. It is important for everyone to avoid creating odors that attract bears. They are attracted not only to food but also perfume, cologne and containers that once held food.
“A bear’s fate is almost always sealed once it associates humans with food,” said Marc Kenyon, DFG statewide bear program coordinator. “It’s unfortunate when a bear becomes a threat and has to be killed because people either haven’t learned how to appropriately store food and trash, or simply don’t care.”
Last year DFG staff logged more than 5,200 hours handling black bear nuisance calls in the Lake Tahoe region alone. Bears’ attempts to obtain human food cause the majority of public safety incidents involving bears. California’s growing black bear population is now estimated at more than 30,000. DFG biologists have ramped-up staff and study efforts to learn more about urban black bear trends while providing increased public response throughout the Tahoe Basin. Black bears are located in most of the state where suitable habitat exists and bear-human encounters are not isolated to wilderness settings.
DFG wardens and biologists respond to numerous wildlife feeding issues throughout the state. Access to human food or garbage, whether it is overflowing from a campground or residential dumpster or in the form of snacks in a tent, is the most common bear attractant. When wild animals are allowed to feed on human food and garbage, they lose their natural ways – often resulting in death for the animal.
Feeding wildlife or allowing wildlife access to human food provides unnatural food sources, habituates animals to humans and can change animal behavior from foraging for food in the wild to relying on human food sources in or near urban areas, which can lead to bears breaking into cars or houses to seek out food. It is also illegal to intentionally feed wildlife in California.
DFG’s Keep Me Wild campaign was developed in part to address the increasing number of conflicts between black bears and people. The campaign provides important tips for living and recreating safely in bear habitat, and advice on what to do if you encounter one of these wild animals. Please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/bear.html for more information.
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.
Don’t bury or burn excess food; bears will still be attracted to the residual smell.
Garbage should be packed out of camp if no trash receptacles are available.
Never approach a bear or pick up a bear cub.
Do not attempt to attract a bear to your location; observe the animal and take pictures from afar.
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 harms a person in any way, immediately call 911.
Media Contact: Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944 Bob Stafford, DFG Associate Biologist, (805) 528-8670 Todd Tognazzini, DFG Game Warden, (805) 610-3916
A black bear that broke into four chicken coops on four separate nights was euthanized near a San Luis Obispo neighborhood Tuesday night.
Two landowners requested a depredation permit from the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) after several failed attempts by the San Luis Obispo Police and local residents to scare the bear away with non-lethal methods. Officers used pepper balls and rubber bullets to chase away the animal with no success.
The bear continued to frequent several residences and break into chicken coops, killing a number of chickens over the past two weeks. The bear was euthanized while attempting to break into a chicken coop Tuesday.
Numerous efforts over many years have clearly established that relocation is not an option for bears that develop behavioral patterns of killing livestock or pets. Wildlife experts have made many such attempts witnessing bears travel many miles back to the area from which they were removed and exhibit the same repeated behavior. Those bears that do not return to their prior home range often seek out human habitation and exhibit similar patterns of destructive behavior.
Media Contacts: Marc Kenyon, DFG Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3515 Kirsten Macintyre, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8988
California’s deer and bear seasons are only months away. Archery deer season starts in the A Zone on July 9 with archery bear seasons commencing Aug. 20. The A Zone general deer season spans Aug. 13 to Sept. 25 with a 65,000 tag quota and an estimated 26 percent hunter success rate. Most of the A Zone land is under private ownership but access is available on Bureau of Land Management and National Forest lands.
Californians enjoy some of the earliest seasons in the nation and the widest range of seasons and hunting conditions from pursuing black bear in the redwood forests of Humboldt County to desert mule deer in the high desert of San Bernardino County. The Coastal A Zone deer and bear seasons are traditionally the first seasons to open for deer and bear in late summer.
Deer and bear hunting seasons with opening dates in July and August are:
Zone Archery General Season Dates
A July 9 – 31 Aug. 13 – Sept. 25
B1, B2, B3, B5 Aug. 20 – Sept. 11 Sept. 17 – Oct. 23
B4 July 23 – Aug. 14 Aug. 27 – Oct. 2
B6 Aug. 20 – Sept. 11 Sept. 17 – Oct. 16
D3-10 Aug. 20 – Sept.11 Varies; see regulations book
C1 Aug. 20 – Sept. 4 Sept. 17 – Oct. 16
C2, C3 Aug. 20 – Sept. 11 Sept. 17 – Oct. 23
C4 Aug. 20 – Sept. 4 Sept. 17 – Oct. 2
X Zones Aug. 20 – Sept. (various) Draw Zones, see regs
Archery bear season opens Aug. 20, 2011 and runs through Sept. 11, 2011.
General bear season opens concurrently with general deer season in the A, B, C, D, X8, X9A, X9B, X10 and X12 deer hunting zones. Please refer to the 2011 California Mammal Hunting Regulations for opening dates. In the remaining deer hunting X zones, bear season begins Oct. 8, 2011.
Note: A recent DFG news release incorrectly stated that opening day of bear season is July 9. However, the earliest bear season does not open until Aug. 13 in the A Zone, and is even later in other parts of the state.
Media Contacts: Marc Kenyon, DFG Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3515 Kirsten Macintyre, DFG Communications, (916), 322-8911
Bear hunters taking to the field this season, if successful, will need to have their heads more closely examined. Department of Fish and Game (DFG) biologists and wardens will require a tooth to be pulled from the skull of each bear taken during the 2011 black bear hunting season that will begin as early as August 13 in the A Zone.
This is a change from last year, when DFG only required that a tooth be pulled from every other bear harvested during the season. The change stems from a request by the California Fish and Game Commission, which wants to take a closer look at the management of black bear hunting in California. “We currently manage black bear hunting at a statewide level, but we want to be doubly sure that we’re not negatively impacting local bear populations,” said Marc Kenyon, DFG’s Bear Program Coordinator.
The Commission is the deciding body for fishing and hunting regulations. In 2010, a proposal to modify the number of bears legally taken during the hunting season was closely scrutinized by Commission members as well as the public. During the regulation setting process, Commission members and the public voiced a desire to look at regional bear hunt management.
Since 2005, a tooth has been pulled from half of the bears legally taken during each hunting season. Current hunting regulations state that the skull of any bear taken during the hunting season becomes the property of DFG. Those portions not needed for scientific purposes are returned to the hunter.
The teeth provide key insight into the bear population. A premolar is pulled from the bear’s mandible and processed at a Montana laboratory specializing in aging animals. The teeth are cut in half, stained and examined under a microscope. Lab technicians can then count the rings, called cementum annuli, which are deposited annually like tree rings. The number of rings indicate the age of the bear. Reproductive events can also be detected in female teeth.
DFG biologists use this information to monitor the bear population. The age and gender data can be combined to produce a conservative population estimate and establish other parameters. This information is then used to inform the Commission when deciding new hunting regulations.
More tooth data will ultimately allow DFG to monitor bear populations at the local level with better precision.
California’s black bear population is estimated to be higher than 30,000. Current hunting regulations allow up to 1,700 bears to be taken during the hunting season. More information about black bear management in California can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/bear/index.html.