Bear Poachers Receive Stiff Sentences in El Dorado Court

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.

Ojai Woman Sustains Minor Injuries from Bear Attack

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


DFG and Partners Save Bear Cub Orphaned in Ojai

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.

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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

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