MEDFORD, Ore. Jackson County Prosecutors will not pursue prosecution of a volunteer local fire chief quoted by Oregon State Police after apprehending a black bear yearling east of Ashland earlier this month.
According to the DA office, Oregon State Police officers were dispatched to an area off Highway 66 near Ashland around 9 a.m. on April 7 to receive reports of a bear cub discovered in the area. Even though a soldier answered, they couldn’t find the bear.
Around 11 a.m., Greensprings volunteer fire chief Gene Davies reported that he had the bear cub. The soldier contacted Davies, who said he had heard about the bear that appeared in the same area for three days. Davies told the soldier that he lured the bear onto a forest road where he “lay down and took a nap,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Davies was able to attach a leash to the bear, load it into a dog crate, and put it in his vehicle. Then he brought it to his home.
“The responding soldier explained that Mr. Davies could not keep the bear in his apartment and instructed Mr. Davies to return the bear to the area where he found it and release the bear,” the prosecutor’s office said. “Mr. Davies informed the soldier that he had already made arrangements to bring the bear to Wildlife Images. The soldier stated that this was not possible and repeated again that Mr. Davies had to return the bear to the area where he was was found.”
The OSP soldier contacted the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and gave them Davies’ contact information. ODFW said they contacted Davies, who assured them that the bear would be returned to where it was found. ODFW later informed the soldier that Davies was still planning to bring the bear to Wildlife Images.
Wildlife Images told ODFW the next day that Davies was also in contact with another rehabilitation center in California to take in the bear. That afternoon the OSP soldier and ODFW staff went to Davies’ home.
“Mr. Davies confirmed that he would take the bear to Wildlife Images that day and that he was in contact with a rehabilitation facility in Southern California,” the DA office said. “Mr. Davies stated that despite the soldier’s instruction the day before to return the hatchling to the area found, he did not believe it was a viable option. Mr. Davies said he wanted to do the right thing for everyone involved.” . “
The bear was still being held in a dog box and the OSP soldier reported that he did not appear to be afraid of people. It was “easily” transported into an ODFW box with an interception rod. ODFW later said it euthanized the bear due to its apparent habituation and poor health.
According to the Center for a Humane Economy, OSP cited Davies for criminal negligence and possession of wild animals without permission. Davies’ actions were defended by the Greensprings Rural Fire District Board of Directors, Representative Pam Marsh, and wildlife advocates who also condemned the ODFW for assisting the bear with euthanasia.
Prosecutors this week concluded that Davies “committed a technical breach of the law,” but noted that he was not acting maliciously in attempting to protect the bear.
“Citizens should know that the removal of wild animals from their habitat is dangerous for both the person and the wild animals,” said the DA office. “When wild animals are removed from a natural habitat, the animal will get used to humans, if only for a short period of time, and will likely never be able to be safely released back into the wild.”