Bear sightings concern Janesville residents
The meeting was put together by local representatives of the California Department of Fish and Game, along with District 3 Supervisor Lloyd Keefer.
Keefer said the purpose of the meeting was to keep residents informed, not only about the increased sightings in the area, but on what to do in when spotting a bear.
Besides Keefer, CDFG Enforcement lieutenant Lisa Stone and federal trapper for Lassen County George Alfonso were on hand to help lead the discussion, as well as answer questions residents had about recent bear activity.
Stone explained while bears had been spotted in Janesville before the end of the Moonlight fire, the last two weeks of November had seen the most activity. In total, Stone said CDFG had been dealing with about five to six bears in the area. All bears have primarily been identified as black bears, the most widely distributed bear in North America, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Stone said the reason why so many bears were appearing in areas near people was simply because they were seeking out the easiest food source. According to the USDA, black bears are omnivorous, meaning they can and will eat a wide variety of plants and animals. She said things like garbage, molasses, tree fruit (both fallen and in tree) and unattended animal feed are just some of the food sources bears can detect with their heightened sense of smell.
Stone said the particular problem is when a bear becomes dependent on these unprotected sources of food. When that happens, the bear essentially becomes “spoiled,” meaning it can longer function independent of human resources. In some circumstances, if a bear continues to be a nuisance to populated areas, the last resort of fish and game officials is to put the bear down.
Some of the Janesville residents at the meeting voiced their disapproval of the notion of destroying a bear. Stone explained to the residents that once a bear becomes dependent on people food, there is almost always no going back to their natural ways. While she said it wasn’t the policy of the CDFG to displace problem animals, the problem lies within the animal’s behavior.
If the animal were to be displaced to a different area of the wilderness, it would eventually roam until it returned to a residential area with similar food sources, causing the same problems in a different area.
Alfonso said while it is his job to protect and educate people about wild animals when they enter residential neighborhoods, there is only so much that can be done for a bear with a taste for people food. He also said the CDFG can be held liable if a bear is removed from an area and comes back to cause harm.
Stone also mentioned people are allowed to defend their property if they feel their lives, livestock or children’s lives are in danger. If people are under such circumstances, they are allowed to use deadly force to protect their property.
Stone said an investigation and autopsy are conducted in these cases to determine how the animals died and if the situation warranted the use of firearms.
Stone said bears are more afraid of people generally than people are afraid of bears, but if a bear becomes aggressive, immediate action needs to be taken. She also said the best thing to do is to call either her at the CDFG or Alfonso at the USDA.
Along with advice on dealing with bears directly, Stone also provided tips on preventing bears from coming onto property in the first place. These tips are courtesy of CDFG.
•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 and be sure to clean barbecue grills
•Keep pet food inside and bird feeders away.
•Pick up fallen tree fruit as soon as possible, and 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.
Stone also reminded everyone at the meeting that it is illegal to feed wild animals, including deer.
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