He Speaks to the Bears:
I just returned from a trip to Mammoth Lakes, California – home to about three dozen wild black bears – and a man who talks to them. His name is Steve Searles. He’s a pony-tailed high school dropout, who sports a beard, blue jeans and a blue denim work shirt. Folks in Mammoth Lakes, a town of about 6,000 souls on the Eastern slope of the Sierra in remote Mono County, call him the Bear Whisperer, because of his uncanny ability to talk to the bears.
“Yeah it’s silly,” Searles told me. “I rarely whisper,” he added. Instead, he uses flash-bang devices, pepper spray and even rubber bullets to teach the bears how to behave, which means redirecting their behavior so they don’t break into people’s homes or sleep under their cabins, as they are prone to do.
We spent two days hanging out with Steve Searles to see him in action…and practice his own form of what he calls, “non-lethal adversive conditioning.”
Does It Work?
Steve Searles has been working with bears for a dozen years. He says, “I’ve shot a lot of bears that have been hit by cars or tourists. But I’ve never had to put a single bear down for public safety or property damage. Not one.”
The people of Mammoth Lakes are strong supporters. One told me, “We really needed somebody like Steve to come in when he did. He’s learned to control the bears and teach us.”
The Mammoth Lakes Police Dept. liked him so much they hired him as a first responder whenever bears approached. But recently they fired him in a dispute with the chief of police.
It’s a fascinating story and one I’m working on now. It’ll be ready for air next week and I’ll keep you posted so you can see the “Bear Whisperer” for yourself.