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Greensprings fire chief won’t be charged for bear rescue effort

A volunteer fire chief in the Greensprings will not face criminal charges for his ultimately unsuccessful efforts to save a young black bear.

Stating that the chief had violated the letter of the law, but not the law’s intent, the Jackson County District Attorney’s office will not press negligence or wildlife violations charges against Gene Davies for keeping an approximately 30-pound bear cub on his property overnight in early April, despite instructions to turn the animal over to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, which later euthanized the bear, according to a release issued Friday by Deputy District Attorney Melissa LeRitz.

“Mr. Davies did in fact commit a technical violation of the law,” LeRitz stated in the release. “However, the statute prohibiting people from holding wildlife seeks to prevent people from taking wildlife from their natural habitats for personal gains, such as keeping an animal for a pet.

“In this case, it is clear that Mr. Davies was not acting with malicious intent, but rather was trying to protect the bear.”

Oregon State Police troopers were dispatched after reports of a bear cub in the road at 9 a.m. April 7 on Highway 66 near Ashland, however, troopers were unable to find the animal.

Davies, the chief of the Greensprings Volunteer Fire Department, encountered the bear roughly two hours later, and told dispatchers that he had the animal in his possession.

Davies took the bear back to his residence, and told a trooper that he’d made arrangements to take the bear to a wildlife rehabilitation nonprofit. The trooper instructed Davies to return the bear to the area where he found the animal.

At about 12:45 p.m. the next day, OSP and ODFW found the bear in a dog crate on Davies’ property.

Davies told police that he did not believe the instructions were a viable option, and that he wanted to do the right thing for everyone involved.

The bear was later put down after showing “obvious signs of habituation,” making it a “poor candidate” for being placed in a permanent rescue facility or for being returned to the wild, according to an ODFW statement.

“Based on years of our own experience, even if it’s relocated far away, the bear now has the habit and will return or go back to the same behaviors, which could put people at risk,” the statement said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.