Fish and Wildlife Officers File Charges Against Suspected Bear Poachers in Nevada County

Following a five month investigation, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers have formally asked the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office to file felony and misdemeanor charges against suspected bear poachers Jason Scott Wilkison, 43, of Grass Valley and Chris Art Nunley, 54, of North San Juan for crimes related to alleged bear poaching in April 2013.

Both men have been charged with the unlawful possession of bear. Additional charges of unlawfully killing a bear were filed against Wilkison. Both individuals also face felony charges involving the unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

Lead investigator, Warden Jerry Karnow, launched the investigation when he received reports of a bear that had been unlawfully shot after being lured with bait to a residence located near Grizzly Flats in Nevada County. Wildlife officers, assisted by Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies, served a series of search warrants where bear remains were found in a shallow grave near Wilkison’s residence. Additional bear remains were located at Nunley’s residence.

The CDFW Forensic Laboratory was involved in an analysis of the blood and bear remains, which CDFW believes will support the case. The recovery of firearms, ammunition and evidence throughout the investigation indicate Wilkison and Nunley, who are convicted felons, unlawfully possessed firearms and ammunition.

Media Contact:
Mark Michilizzi, CDFW Enforcement, (916) 651-2084
Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

CDFW to Host Bear Aware Information Meeting in Big Bear

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will host a bear information and awareness meeting for residents of the Big Bear area on Saturday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. The meeting is in response to numerous reports of bears getting into trash cans and back yards. The extended drought conditions are a likely cause of bears roaming farther out of the natural habitat in search of food.

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“Bears most often enter residential areas because of attractants such as unsecured garbage, pet food or bird seed,” said CDFW Wildlife Biologist Jeff Villepique. “The department is asking residents and visitors to be vigilant by keeping food and garbage inaccessible to wild animals.”

When bears are allowed to feed on human food or garbage, they become habituated, meaning that they lose their fear of humans. They will then likely return to the area to seek out more easily accessible food. Keeping bear attractants like food and garbage secured helps ensure that a safe distance is kept between people and wildlife.

It’s against the law to leave food or trash where bears or other wild animals can access these attractants. Once a bear becomes habituated to human food sources, it is likely to damage property, threaten public safety and ultimately may have to be destroyed.

“Most encounters between wildlife and people are the result of people problems, not wildlife problems,” said Villepique. “However, it’s often wildlife that pays the price.”

CDFW recommends the following general guidelines when living or visiting bear country;

  • Keep trash inside garages, sheds or other enclosures until the morning of trash pick-up.
  • Save smelly kitchen scraps in a bag in the freezer and put it outside in the trash on pick-up day.
  • Feed pets indoors and don’t store pet food or bird seed on the porch.
  • Keep bird feeders out of reach of bears by hanging them from a line strung between two. trees – clean feeders regularly to protect birds from transmitting diseases like salmonella.
  • Anything with a strong odor can attract an unwelcome visitor, a bear can smell a barbecue from a long way, be sure to scrape the grill and burn off gristle.

The public is invited to a free slide show, “Living with Black Bears,” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug.  17 at the Big Bear Valley Senior Center, 42651 Big Bear Blvd. in Big Bear Lake. The talk, by Jeff Villepique of CDFW, will cover bear biology as well as steps to keep bears wild.  It will be followed by a question and answer session.

For more information on living with wildlife, please visit:  To report a bear sighting, call the CDFW Big Bear field station at 584-9012.

Media Contacts:              
Jeff Villepique, CDFW Wildlife Biologist, (760) 937-5966
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

California Black Bear

DFG Reminds People to Leave Bear Cubs Alone

Marc Kenyon, DFG Statewide Bear Program Coordinator, (916) 445-3515
Kevin Brennan, DFG Environmental Scientist, (760) 749-3270
Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8908

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is reminding people who see bear cubs to leave them alone. Even if they appear orphaned, the most appropriate thing to do is to leave them in the wild.

Bear cub exploring the water

Throughout the year, sows teach their young to gather food and eat what is available in their natural habitats. By fall, cubs can survive even if they are completely separated from her.

“Sows normally wean their cubs around the beginning of August,” said DFG Statewide Bear Program Coordinator Marc Kenyon. “Depending on the sow’s parenting ability, these cubs have already learned how to fend for themselves. Plus, bears of this age are extremely resourceful, making their chances of surviving on their own relatively good.”

Approximately 40 percent of bear cubs die in their first year. Those that survive are driven off by their mothers at approximately 18 months of age.

By Aug. 1, California’s black bear cubs are roughly 5 months of age. Research and DFG’s experience over the decades indicates that while orphaned cub survival is lower than that of cubs with sows, cubs this age can survive on their own.

The DFG’s policy regarding orphaned cubs favors leaving them alone unless they are obviously sick or in dire need of assistance. The DFG assesses cubs on a case-by-case basis for diseases, parasites, overall condition and human habituation.

The alternatives to leaving a cub in the wild are limited, and include temporarily holding a cub in a captive facility until winter sets in, placing it in a long-term captive facility such as a zoo, or euthanasia. Reducing wildlife to captivity is inconsistent with the DFG’s goal to keeping wildlife in the wild, where they can behave naturally.

With approximately 30,000 black bears in the state, encounters between people and bears are becoming more commonplace. In order to keep bears in the wild, where they belong, it is important that residents and visitors in black bear habitat stash their food and trash properly. Feeding wildlife is harmful to wild animals and illegal.


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