A northern California man who documents his city’s black bear population has made headlines with a shocking video showing himself fending off a huge one that was squatting under a house — with just a paintball gun.
South Lake Tahoe, a ski resort city in the Sierra Nevada mountains, is home to a lot of wildlife, including many black bears, which Toogee Sielsch refers to as “urbanized.”
Sielsch, who goes by “Tahoe Toogee” on social media, “watches bears, helps move bears from spaces they do not belong, and is a go-to person for news agencies about urbanized bears from NPR to the BBC,” according to Carson Now.
His Instagram page documents his adventures tracking and interacting with bears that have wandered out of the woods and into human communities, where they sometimes cause trouble by breaking into homes in search of food or hibernation spots.
In a video taken on December 26, Sielsch can be seen climbing into a small opening to a crawl space underneath a local home, armed with a paintball gun.
He disappears, and the sound of the paintball gun firing off eight times can be heard.
A hulking black bear then exits the structure and runs off, as Sielsch says “good boy” and says to someone off-camera: “Oh yeah, he’s 500 pounds, easy.”
“I’ve got good news, and tough love news,” the wildlife documentarian wrote in the caption of the video. “I found B33 who I haven’t seen since early November. YAY!”
“Then I had to [evict] him from under an occupied house that he ripped into. Boo!”
He went on to “promise he’s just fine, and will surely find another safer spot to over winter.”
Sielsch left viewers with the message: “PS Don’t even THINK about doing what I did there unless you have YEARS of training and experience!”
The South Lake Tahoe man has had multiple encounters with B33, with one of the first ones occurring when the bear weighed just 150 pounds, he told Fox News. About a year later, he saw him again after he had grown to 400 pounds.
The two have gotten quite familiar with each other over the years, with Sielsch saying that BB3 has become one of his greatest mentors and muses when learning about the local black bears.
According to the bear expert, he volunteers his time to perform about 30 bear evictions every year.
“It’s kind of become my passion,” Sielsch said. His day job being a senior vector technician for El Dorado County.
“I love my community and this is how I pay them back,” he added, noting that he usually just shouts at bears to get them to leave before escalating to such head-turning methods.
“Safety is the most important factor,” he said.
The urbanized black bear population is quite a phenomenon in the Lake Tahoe area, with a large female beast dubbed “Hank the Tank” being blamed for nearly two dozen home break-ins by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The agency typically euthanizes so-called “conflict bears” due to the risk they pose to people, but they were able to “safely” capture her along with her three cubs, who are now all living in wildlife refuges.
One of “Tahoe Toogee’s” other videos shows the bear family happily playing before their capture.
“Mom is now happily and safely sanctuaried at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Springfield, Colorado, and her three cubs have spent the late summer/fall at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue and will be released back to the wild next Spring,” Sielsch wrote.