'Bear Woman' Of Mendocino Cuts Plea Deal; Home Was Day Spa For Bears

Aug 10, 2011
Originally published on August 10, 2011 12:44 pm

It's illegal to feed the bears in California. So what to do with Mendocino County's "Bear Woman," who remade her home into something of a luxury resort for more than a dozen bears? Before the authorities stepped in, Lynne Gravier was reportedly feeding them as much as 6,000 pounds of corn each month.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reports,

Last Aug. 24, seven fish and game wardens raided Gravier's home. They stumbled on what was essentially an animal hippie commune and shack-out pad.

In all 15 loafing black bears hung out with Gravier inside the house and on her deck, and lumbered around the compound like kings at a feast. Gravier named her oafish friends things like Smiley, Goofy, Connie, Biggie and Wombat.

She admitted setting up a kiddie pool for wallowing. She fixed peanut butter sandwiches for her guests, sometimes mixing in glucosamine to ease the arthritis pain in older bears.

The authorities had been tipped of by Gravier's neighbors east of Laytonville, who complained that the bears had broken into their homes and killed livestock, according to the AP. Her home, sitting on 40 acres of land, was eventually condemned. Laytonville is a small town on the Redwood Highway, west of the Mendocino National Forest.

The Chronicle reports that Gravier, 77, had around 6,000 pounds of rolled and cracked corn delivered each month. She "also fed 18 cats, three dogs, 40 peacocks and a steady stream of visiting turkeys and deer," the paper says.

In court, Gravier pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor crime of feeding big game. But prosecutors did not pursue a punishment, and the judge in the case won't levy a sentence until 2014. If Gravier has stuck to her promise of not feeding bears, all charges will be dropped.

After her initial arrest last September, Gravier said that she had been feeding the bears for more than 20 years, beginning with a mother bear and her two cubs. She was evicted from her house, which contained "wall-to-wall garbage and rotting food," according to a Press Democrat story from the time.

Gravier's story brings to mind the case of Timothy Treadwell, subject of the 2005 Werner Herzog film Grizzly Man, who studied and lived in close proximity to bears in Alaska's wilderness. Treadwell and his girlfriend, Amie Hugunard, were killed by a bear attack in 2003.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.