No Prosecution for Scout Leaders Who Stoned Bear
Two Boy Scout leaders who stoned a young black bear that raided their camp in Yosemite National Park will not be prosecuted for the animal’s death because necropsy results were inconclusive.
“We don’t think the intent [to kill] was there,” Ranger Scott Gediman said Monday, “and we decided not to bring the case to a federal magistrate because we didn’t have enough to prosecute them on.”
The 75-pound, 1 1/2-year-old bear was killed after several bears entered the Scouts’ Tuolumne Meadows campground in August. Scout leaders Ron Roach of Fountain Valley and Bob Woodard of Huntington Beach said they acted in self-defense and followed a park pamphlet’s instructions to discourage marauding bears by throwing stones.
Evidence at the campsite supported the men’s versions, Gediman said. He added that they used rocks the size of “softballs” when smaller rocks and noise would have sufficed to chase off black bears, which are not aggressive. Park visitors are advised to make noise and throw sticks or small stones at bears from at least 30 feet away.
“We still want people to be aggressive toward the bears; that’s an important aspect of our bear-human management program,” Gediman said. But “we didn’t expect people to throw huge rocks at them.”
Because of the killing, wilderness officials will rewrite instructions to specify that stones thrown be golf-ball size or smaller, he said.
“First off, we want people to store their food properly,” Gediman said. “But if the bears come into the campsite, whether or not the food is properly stored, we want them to be aggressive to the bears.”
Devon Dougherty, a spokesman for the Orange County Council of Boy Scouts, said that officials were “happy and relieved” with the ranger’s decision, which was received at the council’s Costa Mesa headquarters on Monday.
“It was a difficult situation,” Dougherty said. Roach and Woodward “were doing what they were supposed to be doing.”
Neither Roach nor Woodard could be reached on Monday, but earlier they had expressed remorse.
The said that five times throughout the night, bears had entered the site where eight boys and five adults from the Huntington Beach Troop 1 were camped, pulling at their backpacks and pulling food down from trees.
The leaders told rangers they threw one rock each into a darkened area where they thought they saw two bears approaching. They heard a thud, and the next morning they found the dead yearling, they said. Roach said that he feared “for ourselves and the boys.”
The next morning as they left the park, the leaders told rangers about the incident and were issued citations for killing wildlife, Gediman said. Those citations were canceled as a result of the decision not to prosecute, he said.
Federal law prohibits killing animals in national parks except in self-defense. The offense is a misdemeanor punishable by fines and jail time.
“We are very disturbed that this incident occurred,” said Bob Andrew, chief ranger for Yosemite. “The goal of the park’s human-bear management program is to protect black bears, allowing them to live in as natural a condition as possible. Every effort will be made to prevent such an occurrence from happening again.”