Black bear shot dead in SLO neighborhood

Authorities will examine it to determine whether it was the animal killing chickens in the area

tweber@thetribunenews.com nwilson@thetribunenews.comJune 29, 2011 

A federal trapper killed a black bear Tuesday night that might be the animal responsible for breaking into backyard chicken coops in a San Luis Obispo neighborhood.

Andrew Hughan, of the state Fish and Game Department, said Wednesday a trapper on contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture went to the neighborhood off San Luis Drive where a bear had been marauding over the past week.

Rather than set up a trap, he positioned himself near a house with a backyard chicken coop that he expected would attract the bear.

“He did a stake-out like you would stake out a person,” Hughan said.

About 9 p.m. Tuesday, the trapper saw a bear heading toward the coop at the home near San Luis Obispo High School. The trapper then shot the bear.

The animal was a male about 3 years old and weighing 200 pounds, Hughan said.

A necropsy was started Wednesday to determine whether it was the bear involved in the backyard attacks. A necropsy is similar to an autopsy on a human.

Hughan said the bear’s digestive tract will be examined, and if it shows chicken remains, it will likely be ruled the culprit.

Authorities made the decision to kill the bear in part because other means of discouraging it from entering the neighborhood, such as shooting pepper balls at it, did not work.

Neighbors in the area had mixed reactions about the killing of the animal: Some hoped it could be relocated and others said they agreed with the killing.

But most said they believed the bear’s increasing burden on authorities and the concern it was causing area residents led to its end.

“I’m never a fan of having to kill animals, but I also don’t know what the best solution would have been,” neighborhood resident Nancy Watts said after learning of the death. “It would be great to put him in Utah or Idaho, but I understand you have to be cost conscious and practical.”

Watts said that mountain lions, deer, possums, raccoons and other wildlife frequent the hills and neighborhood near San Luis Obispo High School and that people need to realize that humans have encroached on their habitats.

Some neighbors advocated the shooting of the bear, citing the danger of it getting inside someone’s home and causing harm or possibly going after children.

Don Silva, an 81-year-old retired dairy farmer who resides on Corralitos Avenue, said he felt that shooting the bear made the neighborhood safer and protected children, saying it was “midnight, so I didn’t see him, but it marched right down my street.”

Occasionally, game officials will tranquilize and relocate a bear that has wandered into a neighborhood.

But this technique is not effective with animals that have a well-developed pattern of marauding, and bears have been known locally to return to a site after being relocated more than 30 miles away.

“My first question is, ‘Why can’t they move it far away?’ ” said Maridel Salisbury, whose mother lives on Cazadero Street. “But then again, if the bear likes that neighborhood and does make its way back, I can see how it gets to be too much of a burden to deal with.”

David Sneed contributed to this report.

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