San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Related story: Menacing bear killed: 2 attacks reported at campsite during July
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Article Published: Monday, August 18, 2003 - 10:45:28 PM PST

Agencies' differing policies likely cause of bear-alert delay
Alert issued 42 days after first report
By Diana L. Roemer, Staff Writer

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST -- A six-week delay in telling the public about two bear attacks at an Angeles National Forest campsite is the result of two government agencies unable to agree if, when and how to release the information, officials said Monday.

Two separate attacks, July 3 and July 23, on campers at Little Jimmy Campground in the Angeles National Forest were seen very differently by the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the site, and California Department of Fish and Game, which is responsible for dealing with animals in the forest, said Lorna Bernard, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Fish and Game.

The first attack occurred July 3 when a California Black Bear knocked down camper Shane Henry, 31, of Pasadena. Henry sustained bruises, left the campsite and filled out a report July 4.

But that report, which should have been forwarded to Fish and Game officials, sat in an inbox 'for awhile,' Fish and Game Patrol Officer Martin Wall said a Forest Service employee told him.

Wall said he got the first report on his phone machine July 18 about the attack on Henry. Such delays make it nearly impossible to track the right bear because the trail grows cold, he said.

"Our policy on an attack on people is that the animal will be located and taken,' Wall said.

U.S. Forest Service Spokeswoman Gail Wright said the U.S. Forest Service became aware of the bear attacks July 18. She did not explain the confusion.

Fish and Game officials went to the supervisor's office of the U.S. Forest Service July 21 and recommended shutting down the campsite until the bear was found, Wall said. That didn't go over very well with the Forest Service, which has a bear in its logo, Wall said.

Wright said there was never a consideration of shutting down the site because bears are everywhere.

"They're just going to move somewhere else,' Wright said.

On July 23, when an attack at the same site on a group of Girl Scouts none were hurt was reported directly to Fish and Game by an off-duty Forest Service employee, the Department was able to take action.

Wardens camped out at the site and trapped a bear matching the description on July 30. They killed it July 31.

But the real dance came next: how and if to tell the public about the attacks.

A joint press release was issued to the media Aug. 15, 42 days after the first report was filed with a U.S. Forest Service employee. Wright said she had no comment on the delay. "It's a Fish and Game matter. You'll have to get it from them,' Wright said.

Bernard said some public employees feel like issuing a warning is meaningless because it unduly alarms people.

"It took us that long to put it out ... that's all I can say,' Bernard said.


Wire services contributed to this report.

Diana L. Roemer can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2105, or by e- mail at diana.roemer@sgvn.com.

Related story: Menacing bear killed: 2 attacks reported at campsite during July

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