At the Lake: Charges filed in Tahoe City bear shooting
A Tahoe City resident faces five felony and misdemeanor charges punishable by a sentence up to state prison for allegedly taking deadly aim at a bear this summer.
Authorities say Michael Babcock, on an August night, shot at a sow that had climbed up a tree with its cub. The adult bear fell from the tree and died, leaving behind a male cub.
A subsequent necropsy revealed that it was the bullet ” not the fall, as Babcock initially suggested ” that killed the bear.
Babcock has lived in Tahoe City for more than three decades and is a local business owner. After the Aug. 28 incident, he told authorities he had encountered more bear problems this summer than in any previous year.
Placer officials are still waiting for test results to confirm that the bullet in the bear matches Babcock’s .22-caliber gun, said Placer County Deputy District Attorney Chris Cattran. But, the Tahoe City-based prosecutor said a settlement conference to discuss the case is scheduled for Dec. 3 at the Placer County satellite courthouse in Tahoe City.
“There is sufficient evidence to go ahead and charge him at this point,” Cattran said.
The district attorney’s office filed two felonies and three misdemeanors against Babcock, Cattran said by phone. Felonies include cruelty to animals and negligent discharge of a firearm. Both are punishable by state prison, but Cattran said he doubted Babcock’s sentence would be that severe if convicted.
Misdemeanors include an illegal taking on two counts, and shooting a firearm within 150 yards of a residence, Cattran said. All misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in county jail.
Babcock will plead not guilty, said defense attorney Michael Fitzpatrick in a phone interview Wednesday. The Tahoe City lawyer said he is still investigating the case and would offer no further comment.
“[The prosecution] will be a very loud statement that you can’t just shoot bears illegally,” said Ann Bryant, director of the BEAR League. “We’ll see what happens and where it goes from here. But, at least the prosecution will go through.”
The orphaned cub was released to the wild in an undisclosed area by the California Department of Fish and Game, Bryant said. His fate is unknown.
“I’m glad that there’s a prosecution against the killer of his mother because it probably also killed (the cub),” Bryant said.
Attempts to contact Babcock Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Cattran said Babcock is not being detained. He surrendered himself to the court at the end of October with his attorney, and was released on his own recognizance.