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Residents torn over bears' fate

Fish and game says relocation 'doesn't work'
By: Jon Brines Press Tribune Correspondent
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Former Roseville resident and wildlife activist Justin Barker was saddened when he heard of the plan to trap and potentially kill a mother bear and her three cubs. Barker gained notoriety in the 1990s as the teenager who helped raise money to relocate two California black bears housed at Roseville’s Royer Park to the Folsom Zoo. “Relocation is the only solution,” Barker said. But Andrew Hughan, spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game, said that is unlikely because he believes relocation doesn’t work. “We can take them somewhere else, then they are in someone else’s trash,” he said. “Number one — it’s not policy, two it doesn’t work and three it is incredibly expensive and takes an incredible amount of resources.” A depredation (kill) permit has been issued for the bears. There have been a number of reports of the bears eating chickens from Loomis to Granite Bay, but so far only one depredation permit has been issued, according to Hughan. “The permit was issued in Loomis. There is no permit issued in Granite Bay. It was for that individual property and that individual property owner,” Hughan said. Hughan said that option is only available for property owners who lose livestock or incur property damage, like a chicken coop. Hughan said the bears would have to return to the permitted site before any action would be taken. “We are not out there hunting them we’re not even looking,” Hughan said. “The chances of the bears returning to that particular house is infinitesimal.” Intense interest in the four bears spotted in Loomis, Granite Bay and Roseville Oct. 22 has sparked some to suggest these wayward bears should be taken to the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary to join the five currently housed at their $1.2 million bear exhibit. “We’d love to expand the zoo, but we often get those kinds of calls,” Folsom Zoo Supervisor Jill Lute said. “I don’t know that we could provide a home for another bear.” Lute said they don’t have the room and could not afford the cost of the five to 25 pounds of meat and produce a day to feed one bear, along with other issues. “Adult wild animals who have been living in the wild most of their life — they don’t generally do well in captivity,” Lute said. Barker raised more than $35,000 along with matching grants from the City of Roseville, Folsom and nonprofit organizations to establish a home for two bears at Folsom Zoo. “While I helped create the bear sanctuary at Folsom Zoo, I do not support putting perfectly healthy bears in captivity just because they are doing what is natural,” Barker said. Loomis resident James Hirschinger, who’s surrounded by neighbors who’ve spotted the bears, told the Fish and Game Commission last week they should be saved. “Why does everyone want to shoot everything?” Hirschinger said. “If we can put men on the moon we should be able to save a few bears. There should be other ways.” But even for those who have lost animals, the decision to kill the bears is not an easy one. A Newcastle resident claims she lost one of her dogs after an alleged attack from the wayward bears. “It’s awful,” Lisa Packheiser said. “I cried my eyes out about my rottweiler.” According to her veterinarian the 13-year-old Rottweiler named Roo was paralyzed by blunt force trauma caused by a bear attack Oct. 24 off Powerhouse Road. Attempts to confirm this with her vet were unsuccessful by press time. Packheiser had a second run-in with the bears the next day as their other dog, Miko, chased the cubs up a tree. That’s when the bear sow came to her cubs’ aid. “The bear took two good swipes. She wasn’t trying to pounce and bite it was just these big long swinging swipes at her,” Packheiser said. She was able to get her 5-year-old daughter Breanna and the dog back into the house. “(My daughter) was saying, ‘I don’t like bears anymore they are mean,’” Packheiser said. “I was trying to explain to her that the bear was just trying to protect her babies. I would do the same for you.” Packheiser said she struggles with how much damage a bear would have to do to warrant a kill permit on her property. Packheiser opted not to request a depredation permit at this time. Fish and Game reports scores of calls into their offices as well as the Placer County Sheriff’s Department as the bears started their month-long trek from Auburn to Roseville. Fish and Game reports the bears were last spotted Oct. 22 in Granite Bay, but the Bear League, a local rescue and education group, reports they were last seen in the Auburn area Oct. 27. “We haven’t heard anything in a week since, so that’s the best possible news for them,” Hughan said.