Authorities said they believe Lake Havasu State Park’s black bear may have moved on in the cover of darkness Sunday night.
“We didn’t trap the bear,” said Dee Pfleger, Arizona Game and Fish wildlife manager. “It could have slipped out under the cover of darkness. We will keep looking for signs of the bear at the park.”
Lake Havasu State Park officials said Monday that fresh tracks and bear droppings were found north of the park and that suggested the bear may have left Havasu. Pfleger confirmed the findings were on the access road heading down to the PWC ramp.
The state park, which was closed to visitors early Monday, has since reopened.
Shane Ray, 43, said he spotted the bear swimming offshore about 500 yards from the north ramp. He switched off his trolling motor and started making phone calls to friends, Arizona State Parks officials, Arizona Game and Fish Department to report the sighting.
“I saw this big black object in the water,” he said. “It was swimming toward the California side. It kept swimming out there for about 20 minutes. It never growled at me or never lunged toward my boat. It seemed scared and it looked tired.
“It was breathing very, very hard and I was afraid he was going to drown, and I didn’t want to see that happen. So I forced him up on the shore,” Ray continued.
Ray said he was within six feet of the swimming black bear.
Ray said officials from the agencies told him the animal was likely a wild pig or badger. Ray insisted it was a black bear, telling them he had photographs. Authorities then asked Ray how much he had had to drink that day, he said.
“I wanted everybody to see it. I couldn’t believe it myself,” Ray said. “It really surprised me. I was astonished.”
Ray, who is on the water fishing four or five days a week, said the bear is an unusual type of wildlife he has scene on the water.
“I really want to see (the bear) captured and relocated,” Ray said. “This is personal to me now.”
Pfleger said while hiking or walking make as much noise as possible to let any wild animals know you are nearby, don’t approach the animal and make yourself as big as possible.
“We are not actively looking for the bear, but are encouraging if someone sees the bear they need to call the Arizona Game and Fish hotline at 800-352-0700 to reach the dispatch center in Phoenix,” Plefer said.