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Laytonville woman won't face jail for feeding bears

  • FILE - This is a Sept. 15, 2010 file photo of Lynne Gravier taken while she visits her former home in Laytonville, Calif., as a wild bear wanders onto the property. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that Gravier pled guilty Monday, Aug. 8, 2011, in Mendocino County to a misdemeanor charge of feeding big game. However, prosecutors agreed to drop the charge in three years if Gravier agrees to stop her bear feeding. (AP Photo/San Francisco Chronicle, Brant Ward)

A 77-year-old Laytonville woman who fed and nurtured bears at her remote mountain cabin for more than 25 years has pleaded guilty to feeding big-game animals.

Lynne Gravier, known locally as "Bear Woman," won't spend time in jail under a plea agreement that will wipe clean her misdemeanor criminal record if she kicks her bruin-feeding habit. Meanwhile, Fish and Game officials are free to drop by to ensure she's complying with the terms of the agreement.

"It's the best I could do," Gravier said Wednesday. "I just have to lay low and keep my mouth shut."

She said she's focusing her nurturing impulses on her 14 cats, three dogs and the doves, blue jays and quails that visit her new home outside of Laytonville.

Gravier's mountain cabin was condemned and she was forced to leave after state and county officials last year found it was filled with filth and evidence that bears had been inside.

After she moved, the animals further ransacked the cabin, apparently in search of the grain, cookies and peanut butter sandwiches she had been doling out for decades. Gravier admitted she fed the bears, sometimes by hand. She called them her babies and gave them names.

When state Fish and Game officials raided her 40-acre ranch in September, they found 1,000 pounds of corn and four bears, two of them on the front porch.

Fish and Game officials had been trying to stop Gravier from feeding the bears for more than six years. Some of Gravier's neighbors had begun complaining that the bears she attracted were damaging their property. A higher than average number of bears in the area were killed in recent years by professional trappers because they caused problems, Fish and Game officials said.

Gravier said she believed she had to continue feeding the bears so they wouldn't be killed and also to fatten them up for the winter, elements that would have been part of her defense had the case gone to trial.

She admitted last year that she would be unable to stop feeding her beloved bears if she didn't move away.


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