DESERT SPRINGS, Ariz. — A black bear was shot and killed Saturday by Arizona Fish and Game after it was sighted on multiple different occasions, wandering around the town of Desert Springs near the Arizona Strip.
Mohave County Sheriff’s Office issued press releases and door-to-door notification about the black bear sightings. Nevertheless, Desert Springs residents Bruce Rogman and Judith Hansen, whose property the bear was subsequently found on, somehow had not received the warnings.
The two had family members planning to sleep down in a cabaña area on their property Friday night but changed their mind because, Rogman said, one of the boys said he was afraid of spiders, completely unaware of the other possible danger.
It was like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” Rogman said of discovering the bear had been sleeping in his bed in the cabaña.
“Well I knew something – I knew a wild animal was in there because these two dogs were wrestling with it,” Rogman said as he pointed at his two large dogs. “And I knew it was a big animal because I could hear how loud it was, but I couldn’t distinguish it was a bear.”
It wasn’t until Saturday morning that Rogman and his adult son confirmed exactly what was there.
“I was trying to clear out some water or some dirt or debris out of the spring, and then I saw its face. I was about this close to it,” Rogman said, indicating only about a few inches from his face.
Rogman’s son then went up to the house and told Hansen, “There’s a baby bear down in there on your property,” Hansen said. Thinking the bear was a baby needing help, Hansen immediately put her shoes on and went down the little hill to see what she could do.
“I went down and I started looking and looked in there, and I saw it from about 10 feet away, and I, umm, went closer and talked real quiet and it was watching me with its left eye,” Hansen said. “It had its head turned away from me so I couldn’t see its right eye very well. But it just kept watching me and it was just curled up, like in a fetal position.”
Even as a child, Hansen said, she has had somewhat of an uncanny intuitive sense and closeness with animals that allowed her to get close enough to assist them without being harmed. Hansen described gently speaking to the beautiful, rustic-colored bear as she slowly moved towards it to see if it was injured or in need of help.
“‘Oh, baby, are you OK? Let me get a little closer. I’m not going to hurt you,'” Hansen said she said to the bear, “and just talking to it very slowly, quietly and gradually working closer and closer to the bear. It was down in the grapevines, so I had to pull the grapevines out of the way to get in there by it. And I was talking to it and sitting by it.”
Hansen said the bear appeared to be in distress and in need of food, and she sent Rogman’s son up to get a bowl of dog food for the bear. She continued:
I was talking to the bear the whole time. Just real quietly sayin’ ‘I’m so sorry this is not fun for you. I know you don’t belong here. This just isn’t where your habitat is.’
He had long fur, and you don’t need long fur in this desert. And so they brought the bowl of dog food down and I told the bear ‘I’m just going to give you this.’ And I just moved in a little closer, and I just reached in and set it down right by its paws and its face. And he started eating the dog food and licked the whole bowl clean and I was talking to him, ‘isn’t that good? Isn’t it yummy?’
And then I just sat there and I talked to him and I told him, ‘I really think it would be best to just get some help, you know, get you taken back where you belong. Hopefully some Fish and Game people can come out and help you,’” Hansen said. “And talked to him just for a little bit longer sayin’ ‘I’m really sorry’ – stuff like.
After Hansen and Rogman talked, they decided it would be best for the bear if they called for help, so they called the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office. A few hours later, they said three Sheriff’s Office trucks, an ambulance, Arizona Highway Patrol, Arizona Department of Transportation, a fire truck and a ranger law enforcement truck arrived at their home.
“Before I left for work – and they are all standing here with their high-powered rifles – and I’m like ‘don’t kill the bear! There is no reason to pull the trigger,’” Hansen said. “And they are like ‘well, we know what we are doing ma’am, you go back inside your house. We don’t need you here ma’am. You just need to go away.’ I’m like ‘OK, fine but this bear is not vicious, just don’t hurt it.’ ‘Cause I could tell it just wasn’t, you know, it just was needing help.”
After Hansen went to work, Rogman said he heard the shots and knew the bear was dead.
“I came out here right after I heard the shots. It was 4 shots. That was really weird. Why did it take 4 shots to do that, you know?” Rogman said.
A fed bear is a dead bear
“Are we going to capture the animal? Are we going to tranquilize it? A lot of cases with bears’ relocation gets very difficult and complicated in places to be able to release them,” Arizona Fish and Game Public Information Officer Shelly Shepherd said. “And then, unfortunately, in this situation, we had a bear that was being fed (and) not afraid of people.”
Situations like these can be difficult, Shepherd said. After interviewing several people in the area, Fish and Game officials determined the bear had had too much interaction with people in the neighborhood and had spent too much time in the area.
“The final result of having to shoot that animal is the last result we want to have to take if at all possible,” Shepherd said. “We want to try to just get that animal to move out on its own, and we use scare tactics and shotguns that actually shoot bean bag pellets and that kind of thing and see if we can scare animals out of the area. Sometimes they just keep coming back.”
Having an adult male bear showing no fear of humans is a public safety issue because it makes it a very dangerous animal, Shepherd said, and the Fish and Game policy dictates the animal be put down.
“We saw un-bearlike behavior in the fact that it was that timid. It was, I don’t want to call it tame, but when somebody can approach a black bear and it doesn’t do anything, there’s obviously something going on,” Shepherd said. “It was starting to get too used to humans and that could lead to a dangerous animal, certainly.”
“Some people are feeding, unfortunately, with the interest of the animal and its well-being,” she said, “but feeding wild animals is not a good idea. There is that slogan ‘A fed bear is a dead bear’ and we do see that, often, that they just start to develop these bad behaviors.”
Shepherd also said there are very limited areas in Arizona to safely relocate wild animals before reaching a carrying capacity or maximum population an environment or habitat can sustain indefinitely. Additionally, most of the Wildlife Park or zoo facilities are either at capacity or not accepting adult male bears, she said.
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