'Scrawny' bears in Mammoth doing well ... so far

One of the more interesting bear seasons in years has begun in Mammoth, and Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles said their habitat is remaining intact, more or less.

They’re scrawny, however, and hungry.

“The drought this year means it’s going to be busier,” he said in his monthly bear report. “The bears are going to run out of natural foods and will be more likely to try to get into human food.”

He said people in Mammoth are going to notice some skinnier bears, but “The Bear Whisperer” said he is urging that people “can’t give in to feeding them.”

“Don’t intervene with scrawny bears,” he said. “We need to work with Mother Nature, not against her. It’s going to be fine, but we may lose some bears along the way.”

Searles said younger bears will most likely to be the ones to suffer most, either by being chased out of town by bigger bears to areas with even less food, or being attacked by the same bigger, older bears.

Searles’ latest count showed about five sows (none lactating), seven second-year bears and a dozen, predominantly male, older bears over 5 years old.

Last week, he said he was surprised to witness a sow coming out of her den with two cubs, when none was anticipated this year.

“We’re still on track at about 25 bears in the 26 square mile incorporated area of Mammoth Lakes, which includes the Lakes Basin and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area,” he said. “That’s consistent with the state average of one bear per square mile.”

This season, Searles said he observed the earliest bear wake-up he’d seen. He estimated that the bears were roused seven weeks earlier than usual, which means this summer’s “busy” season is about seven weeks ahead of schedule.