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Laytonville's "Bear Woman" is boarding up her mountain home and, with great misgivings, leaving behind the black bears she has fed for more than two decades.

"It's just sad," said Lynne Gravier, 76.

Gravier said she started providing food when a mother bear and two cubs fell into her swimming pool about 25 years ago. She never stopped, despite repeated warnings from state game officials.

The bears responded to Gravier's kindness by returning year after year, spending a month or so around her home fattening up before and after long winters in hibernation.

When State Fish and Game officials bent on halting the handouts raided her 40-acre ranch last month, they found 1,000 pounds of corn and four bears, two of which were on the front porch. They said she mixes the corn with dog food and oil.

On Friday, Mendocino County Deputy District Attorney Tim Stoen plans to file a misdemeanor charge of feeding large game animals against Gravier. It's punishable by up to six months in jail, but he will ask only for two years of probation, during which game officials can search her home to ensure she complies.

"We think she's a compassionate woman, but we have to enforce the law," Stoen said.

The investigation was launched after neighbors complained about damage done to their homes by bears. It's illegal to feed bears, for our sake and theirs.

They can become accustomed to it and can get destructive in their quest for a free handout, said Fish and Game Lt. Loren Freeman. That kind of problem behavior has gotten them killed.

Moving away from the place she has called home for 40 years is the only way Gravier can think of to comply with the law.

"I can't control myself," she said.

Gravier has moved into the home her parents built when they first settled in the Laytonville area 60 some years ago, leaving behind 17 cats and some peacocks but bringing her pet rooster, who lives indoors.

She said it breaks her heart to see the hungry bears when she goes back to feed her domestic pets.

"They just stand there and look at me, and I have to turn my back on them," she said.

The relocation was initiated by county health officials who told Gravier she could not live in the home until she makes structural and plumbing repairs and clears out the wall-to-wall garbage and rotting food, they said.

Her eviction may accomplish what several threats of prosecution failed to do.

Six years ago, Fish and Game officials warned Gravier to stop feeding the bears, and five years ago they sought prosecution because she persisted.

Former Mendocino County District Attorney Norm Vroman refused to prosecute, saying it wasn't clear that there was a problem.

Gravier continued to feed the bears, dismaying neighbors who say the animals break lights, tear down fences, decimate gardens and kill livestock.

Game officials again asked Mendocino County authorities to prosecute Gravier. It's illegal to feed wildlife. By persisting, they say, Gravier likely has killed some bears with her kindness.

Bears that get used to being fed by people lose their fear of humans. They can become aggressive and break into homes in search of food. When that happens, permits are issued to kill the offending bears.

In past years, 17 bears in Laytonville have been shot as a result of complaints about the animals damaging property, officials say.

California has an estimated 40,000 bears, a fourfold increase since the 1980s, said Marc Kenyon, California Fish and Game's statewide black bear program coordinator. It's unusual for them to attack people, but it does happen.

Twelve attacks on humans have resulted in injury in California since 1980, Kenyon said. While none were fatal, some were serious and most involved bears that had been exposed to humans.

In 1993, two 13-year-old boys were attacked while in sleeping bags in Southern California campgrounds. In each case, a bear grabbed the child by the head and attempted to drag him away, according to Fish and Game.

In 1986 in Siskiyou County, a man who had been feeding bears for 30 years was injured.

Nationally, bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell made national headlines in 2003 when he and his girlfriend were attacked and eaten by the Alaska brown bears he had lived among for more than 10 seasons. Filmmaker Werner Herzog documented Treadwell's fascination with the bears in the 2005 film "Grizzly Man."

Gravier said she has been injured just once, about seven years ago when a bear she was feeding accidently nipped her hand. It's unclear why she has been relatively unscathed, but experts suspect luck and temperament are at play.

"I would say she's extremely lucky," Kenyon said.

The bears' personalities also could be a factor, said Harry Reynolds, a retired Alaska Fish and Game bear biologist who continues to research and lecture on the animals. Bears "have individual temperaments as do humans and most other mammals," he said.

Reynolds said the people who alter bear behavior through feeding may not ultimately be the ones to suffer. Bears have large territories and are bound to run into trouble when they approach other people for handouts.

Gravier knows that some of her bears have been identified as trouble makers, tracked down and killed by a local trapper. She believes they were harmless and the killings unjustified.

"I'm so disgusted with the human race," she said shortly after her home was raided.

Gravier said she largely prefers animals to people and blames humans for moving into bear territory.

It's a common belief among people who habitually feed wildlife, said Ann Bryant, whose Lake Tahoe organization, Bear League, aims to teach people how to live in harmony with the animals.

"A lot of them believe humans have taken over the planet. These people believe it's their duty to help animals" by feeding them, she said.

Gravier said she realizes it was a mistake to start feeding the bears, but she worries that stopping will cause her bears to make trouble.

Fall is a particularly treacherous time as they seek extra food to get them through hibernation, Kenyon said. "They're feeding machines."

Gravier worries that Connie, a female bear with three cubs, and aging bears like the one she calls Horseface won't make it through the winter without her help. And she fears they'll look for nourishment in all the wrong places and end up dead.

"I don't want to have a blood bath at the end," she said.

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