A black bear weighing 500lb (227kg), which has reportedly been breaking into homes in a scenic city in California may soon be killed, leading to an outcry by wildlife activists.
The bear, who is well known among the residents of the South Lake Tahoe area as either Jake or Yogi, does not hunt but has become habituated to feeding out of garbage in the area.
A California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson said that killing the bear was their only option because it had already damaged 38 homes and is responsible for more than 150 emergency calls.
The wildlife agency has set up large container-sized traps to capture and kill the bear.
“It is the point of no return for this bear, but the public needs to fix the things that brought us to this point, or it will continue,” said Jason Holley, a supervising wildlife biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Department.
“This is hard on staff, they don’t become biologists to kill,” he said, adding that they were acting on complaints and will put it down under the habituated bear policy.
However, some outraged residents have taken it upon themselves to sabotage the attempt to kill the bear by taking turns to watch and scare the bear away or play loud music, reported Nevada Current. Some also pray painted ‘Bear Killer’ on the traps.
Authorities want to take action before the animal hurts someone but the action has triggered public outcry.
“It’s a dangerous situation,” Toogee Sielsch, a black bear advocate, told South Tahoe Now. “It breaks my heart.”
The bear will “pay the price for human ignorance”, said Ann Bryant of Bear League, a non-profit organisation that encourages people to live in harmony with bears.
The Bear League has deemed the order cruel and unnecessary and has urged authorities to look for other options. “We don’t want anybody to get hurt. Nobody wants that,” Ms Bryant told CBS Sacramento. “We don’t want the bear to die either. He’s always lived his life in that area. He’s a well known local.”
The Fish and Wildlife Department said relocating the bear was not an option because the animal would not be able to survive as it does not know how to hunt.
Ms Bryant agreed, saying that “they usually die a horrible death trying to survive after relocation”. But she added that the animal could be relocated to a sanctuary and has reached out to one, who agreed to have the bear. The Bear League has also offered to pay the financial expense of relocating the animal to a sanctuary.
The government department has agreed to consider the request following public pressure.
The wildlife agency and activists are urging residents to “bear-proof” their homes and their garbage bins to keep the animals away from residential areas and easy food options.