Live Ammo Not Rubber Bullets Used on Bear

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Friday night a resident of Tahoe Shores Mobile Home Park in Stateline, California heard some noises in his garage. One bear was ripping stuff apart in his garage, while two more were outside. He called the Douglas County Sheriff's office, who responded around 10 pm.

They worked on scaring off the bears with noise and lights. One of the three ran off, the other two treed themselves in the mobile home park. The deputies responding had wildlife control guns, loaded with rubber projectile rounds.

In most cases the wildlife control guns are loaded with two rubber projectile rounds, followed by two rifled slugs. The two look very similar. The reasoning behind this, is in case the wildlife being shot at responds by charging the deputies instead of running off.

One of the deputies shot one rubber round at one of the bears in the tree, nothing. The second deputy shot another round, nothing. The second deputy shot again, this time it was not a rubber projectile, but a rifled slug.

It was a dark night, the deputy made a mistake and feels terrible. The rifled slug and the rubber projectile look very similar and he assumed he had another rubber round in there.

The department is reviewing its policy regarding its response to bear calls and looking at any additional training measures that could prevent a similar situation from happening in the future, Douglas County Sheriff's Sgt. Jim Halsey said.

The residents who had the bear in the garage are in the process of an eviction. The director of properties at Tahoe Shores says they were improperly storing a month's worth of garbage in the garage and had attracted the bear. From Tahoe Daily Tribune.


hunter25's picture

An unfortunate incident but I

An unfortunate incident but I agree with the others in that it's not something to get too worked up about. I bet these guys don't ever use thier guns much and wouldn't even be sure the last time they were fired. From the article it appears th eshotguns are pre loaded ahead of time with the two rubber loads up front first. If you never checked your shotgun you wouldn't know if one had been fired before changing the count or maybe the gun had been loaded before and then had the round ejected and not loaded back into the magazine tube. Anyway the mistake was made and they will have to decide what the policy will be in the future. What makes it strange though is this is similar to the BP case a few months ago where a polar bear was accidently killed in similar fashion after lethat rouds were used instead of the intended rubber ones. I don't think we ever heard how that case turned out.

Retired2hunt's picture

  A very unfortunate


A very unfortunate incident/accident.  Most likely a change in policy and added training will be part of the solution.  I had never seen a rubber bullet before so I looked them up on the internet.  All the pictures that I had found of these rubber bullets were of a grey shotgun shell with the words printed on it "rubber ball".  I understand it was dark when the shotguns were most likely loaded but I would think that a person could distinguish the two.

Here are two links to additional information on the story...

It appears they are trying to trap the two remaining bear cubs in hopes of putting them in a rehabilitation center for the winter months and then later release back into the wild.  They are supposedly 1 year cubs whos chances of survival without the mother bear would be minimal.

As for the garbage the tenants did not have the $14 dollar a month service and would take their garbage to the dump.  And the garage door was not working correctly so it was easy for the bears to smell and then access the garbage.


groovy mike's picture

I agree and disagree

I agree that the deputy need not feel too bad.  Bears in residentailneighborhoods are not something that you want repeat offenders at. 

That said - you should know what you are shooting and some (not all) law enforcement officers have a hsitory of less than ideal gun control.  We can't assume that just because teh guy is an officer that he practices safe gun handling.  There is too much evidence to the contrary, so more training sounds like a perfect response by the agency.  It might not be needed, but it sure wont do any harm.

I can't agreethat the homeowner is at fault for keeping a month's worth of garbage in a closed garage though.  In hunting season I doubt I get to the recycling center anywhere near once a month.  I am simply not home during daylight hours and our county drop off station is only open three days per week and not on a reliable schedule.  For instance if Monday is a legal holiday but they are scheduled to work on Tuesday (Monday being a normal day off) - they'll close on Tuesday to observe the holiday.  I honestly don't know how they get away with it.

In any case - three or four weeks of trash is not uncommon to drop off at once for anyone in my area.  If you only have one bag of garbage per week, why would you drive 30 miles round trip to drop it off every weekend? It's a whole lot easier to throw 4 bags in teh bag of the pick up and take it once a month.


COMeatHunter's picture

I see your point about the

I see your point about the trash.  And in areas that aren't as "residential" or don't have chronic bear problems I would agree driving 30 minutes a week to drop off a bag of trash is probably excessive and unnecessary.  But, if you had bears in your area getting into your trash, I'm betting you would practice some type of bear proof disposal methods on your property too and not just keep the trash in the garage to attract them.

This area around Tahoe has a lot of chronic bear problems and although I'm not familiar enough with their community to know the "bear rules", I'm sure they have rules and probably trash collection areas much closer than 30 miles away to help mitigate the very scenario that played out with the 3 bears.  

A little common sense goes a long way in this type of situation and it didn't sound like the occupant of the property exercised much of it.  But my opinion could be a bit harsh too.

COMeatHunter's picture


Oops.  Well that's certainly one way to take care of a bear problem and do it cost effectively.  Figure tranquilizing, transporting, tagging and releasing a bear would costs several thousand dollars.  Contrast that with the cost of a rifled slug...maybe a buck or two.  Not a bad mistake, deputy, especially in a state that calculates it's budget shortfalls with 9 or 10 zeroes and 3 commas!

I agree with you Vermonster, the resident leaving a month's worth of trash in the garage is solely to blame.  I'm surprised they don't have a citation for having too much garbage on the premises to attract bears.

Ca_Vermonster's picture

Ah, Hal, but you gotta

Ah, Hal, but you gotta understand, this is California.  We all sing "Give peace a chance" daily.... lol

Yeah, it's a shame that it had to happen, but it's not like it was intentional or anything. Plus, the blame for the bears dears from a shotgun slug should lay squarely on the shoulders of the tenant being evicted.  To leave a months worth of garbage laying around in bear country?  Just plain idiotic.

If you get the chance Hal, look for the shoe "The bear whisperer".  It is set in Tahoe, and all the guy does is try to respond to bear calls with les than lethal methods.  He shoots flares, firecrackers, etc.  He's named some of the bears that he sees every year.  During the show, they even mention, and show one, that bears actually hibernate in culverts, and under people's decks. 

They are everywhere, and the people in town not only put up with them, but consider them a special part of living up there.

And the problem is ???? 

And the problem is ????  Looks like Darwinism in action.  One runs off, one gets Darwinized and one (didn't see what happened to the third) maybe learns that a mobile home park isn't the safest place to be.  Wouldn't be surprised to learn that the third bear was captured, weighted, marked with a tag and released probably near the state line.  Maybe I'll get a Nevada bear tag next year and do a little Darwinizing myself.