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Well-known bear found dead on Tahoe beach

By Ravali Reddy
Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Well-known bear found dead on Tahoe beach

The California Department of Fish and Game is investigating the death of a bear – the mascot for a bear advocacy group – that was found dead Monday on a beach on the west shore of Lake Tahoe.

The bear, which authorities said was shot and killed sometime Sunday night, was well-known as the unofficial mascot of the BEAR League.

Ann Bryant, founder and executive director of the BEAR League, said the bear's name was Sunny and that she was a "gentle daytime bear who liked people."

Bryant said Sunny had a habit of crawling through open windows and doors to find food, but had never broken into a house or been aggressive with a human being.

A BEAR League posting said Sunny was killed by "one gunshot to her back and she suffered terribly, blood all over the rocks and sand."

The Department of Fish and Game said the local warden conducted interviews Monday in the community of Homewood, and that the bear's remains were collected for further forensic analysis.
"It is a misdemeanor to shoot a bear without the proper permits and this can result in a fine and jail time," Fish and Game spokesman Kyle Orr said.

Bryant said the bear's body was found near a home where she had a confrontation with an angry property owner last Wednesday.

Sunny had wandered onto the property to get to a cooler that had been left out on the porch, Bryant said.

According to Bryant, the property owner's neighbors called her when Sunny was spotted in the lot next to his house with vodka and potato chips that the bear had taken from the cooler.

Bryant said she tried to calm down the property owner, who was aiming a gun at Sunny, advising him that shooting bears was illegal.

"He didn't want to listen to me," said Bryant. "He told me he was a hunter. He told me he had a lot of guns and that he was proud of it."

Bryant said the homeowner did not respond positively to bear safety tips such as making sure to keep all food secured and out of sight.

The Bee's efforts to try to reach the homeowner were not successful.

According to Orr, individuals are allowed to shoot wild animals only if they can provide proof that the animal is damaging their property or has been proved dangerous. In such cases, a person must display evidence to the Department of Fish and Game in order to obtain a permit. Less than a dozen permits have been issued in the Tahoe area so far this year.

In situations where a wild animal is killed without a permit, California law allows individuals to act to defend themselves only if they are being threatened by wildlife.

Local residents are concerned that this incident may send the message that shooting at wildlife is acceptable.

"Teenagers hang out on the beach at night," said Jana Schumm, a frequent visitor to the area whose boyfriend owns a house down the street from where Sunny's body was discovered.

"What if someone tries to shoot a bear and misses? There are so many accidents that happen with guns."

"I think someone who does this is more dangerous to the community than a bear is," said Schumm.

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