Man accused of shooting bear cub
Nevada Appeal News Service
TAHOMA – A former U.S. Coast Guard employee faces California Fish and Game charges after officials believe he killed a bear cub and left its carcass to rot in a ditch last Friday.
John Wilkins, of Tahoma, faces three Fish and Game misdemeanor charges in the case of a year-old brown bear cub that was shot in the neck, said Lt. Richard Vincent of the Department of Fish and Game. Charges include the illegal take of a bear, the wanton waste of a carcass and failure to notify fish and game of the shooting. Each has a maximum penalty of one year in prison and up to a $1,000 fine, Vincent said.
Wilkins could not be reached for comment after repeated attempts.
A separate investigation is under way with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. The officer in charge of the investigation, Sgt. Bruce Rosa, was off duty on Thursday and could not provide any details on the investigation, nor could anyone else in the office, a sheriff’s spokesperson said.
Initial reports from the El Dorado Sheriff’s Office indicate that Wilkins said he shot the bear because it attacked him, Vincent said.
Ann Bryant, president of the West Tahoe-based Bear League, said she has received calls all week from Tahoma residents who are outraged by the incident.
“We know for a fact that bears don’t attack people, and little 75-pound cubs would certainly not attack a person,” Bryant said. “To shoot a cub is certainly not acceptable, and people who do that should not live in Tahoe – we’re absolutely horrified.”
Bryant said community members have called her threatening to harm or even kill Wilkins for his alleged actions.
“Tahoma is known for being a bear-loving community, and it couldn’t have happened in a worse place,” Bryant said.
West Shore resident Ed Miller, commissioner of the Meeks Bay Fire Protection District Board of Directors, said he has talked to many residents who have driven or walked past Wilkins’ Tahoma house this week and reported seeing drawn blinds, no activity and no car in the driveway.
Miller said residents are upset, saying things like: “This guy should be run out of town.”
“We love what we call ‘our bears,’ and we enjoy seeing them when we see them,” Miller said. “To do something like this is outrageous and very sad.”
Vincent said neighbors in the area of 7th and Alder avenues in Tahoma notified law enforcement after they saw what appeared to be the mother bear and another yearling cub trying to fend off coyotes from picking at the dead cub carcass.
“A major portion of the carcass had been eaten by the coyotes when we found it,” said Vincent, who removed the carcass for examination and disposal, and later confirmed the fatal gunshot wound.
Wilkins, a former fireman for the U.S. Coast Guard, left his job voluntarily on May 12, said Jason Grimm, a spokesman with the US Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe. During Wilkins’ service, he never had any significant problems, Grimm said.