Oregon man warned over release of captured bear

December 22, 2006 12:00 am

GALICE, Ore. (AP) — An animal rehabilitator violated his state permit when he took it upon himself to release a black bear into the wild after it had been tranquilized in downtown Grants Pass, authorities said.

Investigators said David Siddon, executive director of Merlin-based Wildlife Images, violated his permit when he released the revived bear on Dec. 2 near Galice without state Department of Fish and Wildlife approval.

Lt. Jeff Williams of the Oregon State Police issued Siddon a warning this week and explained the permit requirements.

"Our role is to gain voluntary compliance," Williams said. "In this particular case, we feel quite strongly that a warning for violating the terms of his permit will definitely take care of this situation."

Siddon said he released the bear because he had no room to hold it that weekend and no one was available at the wildlife department office. Moreover, the department has a policy against releasing bears habituated to humans, and Siddon said that's contrary to the philosophy at Wildlife Images.

"That's not what the public wants us to be doing," Siddon said. "You're damned if you do, damned if you don't. There's no scenario in this case that would have worked for us."

Siddon said having to kill a captured bear to avoid facing a citation provides Wildlife Images with "very little incentive" to help the state police capture a bear.

The wildlife department has warned hunters to avoid eating meat from any bear shot in the Galice area this month. The residual chemicals from the tranquilizers, which can last up to seven weeks in animal tissues, could sicken them.

"That's why we don't dart deer or elk during hunting seasons," department veterinarian Colin Gillin said.

A tranquilized big-game animal that is released would typically be fitted with ear tags warning anyone who kills it to check with a local wildlife department office before eating it.

Though human health problems from tranquilized animals are rare, symptoms could include dizziness or nausea. However, Gillin said, one fear is that someone who eats tainted meat could have a dangerous allergic reaction.