UKIAH, Calif. – A woman who turned her rural Northern California home into a spa for wild bears won't go to jail after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of feeding big game.
After Lynne Gravier entered her plea in Mendocino County Superior Court on Monday, Judge Richard Henderson set her sentencing date for three years from now, on Aug. 8, 2014, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/pXDbG8). If Gravier stays out of trouble and stops feeding bears, prosecutors agreed to drop the charge then.
Gravier, 77, known as the "Bear Woman," set up a plush hangout for her furry friends at her 40-acre Laytonville property, complete with a kiddie pool and a buffet of cornmeal and peanut butter sandwiches, sometimes laced with glucosamine to ease the arthritis pain in older bears.
Authorities who raided the property in response to neighbor complaints last August found a total of 15 black bears who regularly relaxed inside Gravier's house and on her deck. She also fed 18 cats, three dogs, 40 peacocks and other wildlife out of her home, which was covered in filth.
California Department of Fish and Game wardens called it the worst example of bear feeding they had ever encountered.
Gravier's supporters protested her prosecution, defending her as an animal lover. But neighbors complained that she drew in bears that terrorized the community by breaking into homes, ransacking feed sheds and chasing livestock.
"This lady may have thought she was doing a good thing," Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster told the Chronicle. "We don't want to bash her, but we have to get her attention and get her to recognize that her feeding the bears was causing a problem for the neighbors and, frankly, is dangerous."
Under the terms set by prosecutors, Gravier may not return to her Laytonville property. The house was condemned last year.
"The end result to me was very positive," Gravier said. "I'm glad that it is over and I can go on."