Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Division officers, in cooperation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Coos County District Attorney's Office, on October 24, 2005 removed a black bear from a Coos County residence as a result of an investigation into allegations the bear was being unlawfully held in captivity. The bear, which was approximately 1-1/2 years old, was moved to an approved holding facility while the investigation continues. Charges may be filed following a review by the Coos County District Attorney's Office.
The investigation began in August 2005 after an OSP Fish and Wildlife officer received information that a black bear was being held in captivity at a Coos County residence near the West Fork Millicoma River. Additional information that the black bear had reached a weight of approximately 150 pounds indicated a potential public safety concern.
The investigation could find no record that a permit had been issued to hold the bear in Oregon. Such permits require individuals and facilities to undergo rigorous inspections to ensure the animals are being treated humanely; receive appropriate food, shelter and exercise; and do not pose a danger to humans or pets.
"ORS 497.308 prohibits individuals from capturing and removing any wild animal from its natural habitat and holding it in captivity without authorization from ODFW," said Ron Anglin, administrator of ODFW's Wildlife Division. "In this case, the holders of the bear did not have that authorization."
Habituation to humans poses a threat for both the individuals holding a wild animal and any neighbors or visitors, as well as pets and livestock, noted Anglin.
"Wild animals retain their natural instincts, which makes them potentially very dangerous, especially when the animals are raised to have no fear of humans," said Anglin.
OSP officers served a search warrant on October 24th at the residence. The officers and ODFW biologists tranquilized and relocated the bear to an approved holding facility pending adjudication of the case. The biologists and ODFW's veterinarian accompanied the officers to ensure the bear's well-being during capture and transport.
No one has yet been cited or charged. After the investigation is completed, results will be forwarded to the Coos County District Attorney's Office for consideration of any charges.
Holding a wild animal without a permit is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $6,250 and/or one year in jail.
ODFW regularly advises Oregonians to keep wildlife in the wild, and to not pick up or take home any baby wildlife, noted Anglin.
"Typically, people who take and keep wild animals do not understand their nutritional or exercise needs, and the animals become malnourished and weak," said Anglin. "In many cases once the animal gets too large to keep penned, its holders release it into the wild, where it has no survival skills. It's not kind to the animal to remove it from the wild in the first place or to raise it like a pet. Wild animals belong in the wild."