"Dead bears learn nothing"
February 13, 2020 7:28 PM Subscribe
Steve Searles is not really a cop, not really a civilian; he lives in limbo between those two worlds. […] Searles has carved out a niche and a career as Mammoth Lakes’ “bear whisperer,” a protector of the wild things that roam the night: the ubiquitous bears, deer, coyotes and all manner of high-country cat. He protects the residents and the 2.5 million annual visitors too, though they have the numerical advantage. They also have guns and cars … warm beds and cozy, muffin-scented kitchens. (Chris Erskine, LA Times)
The bears mean no harm, generally, a trait Searles picked up on early. But he knew that open access to food scraps and bird feeders had led to bear congestion and damage to homes and property, drawing a backlash among residents.
Bears don’t eat; they gorge, typically 22 hours a day in the pre-winter season.
They will gnaw a tail light, or pick at a seam on a car till they can get to the food inside; occasionally, they activate an air bag, wreaking havoc when they can’t wiggle out. In many ways, they’re smarter than dogs, Searles says, and surprisingly adept at doorknobs and latches, or slamming Dumpsters to the ground to break a lock.
“If they had thumbs, they’d be driving these cars away,” says Mammoth Lakes Police Lt. Eric Hugelman, who oversees Searles.
They are clever yet cartoonish, their eagerness a liability. Searles once had to tackle a cub to remove a Costco snack jar stuck on the young bear’s head.
“Even a cub is 10 times stronger than I am,” he says respectfully.