Karen Noyes has been feeding bears for years, ever since one showed up as she was providing food to the birds outside her Yachats home.
NEWPORT — Karen Noyes has been feeding bears for years, ever since one showed up as she was providing food to the birds outside her Yachats home.
"It scared me," she said. "Then I thought 'why should I feed them and not him?'"
Her neighbors and a Lincoln County prosecutor have an answer to the question. They say Noyes' actions put herself and the community in danger.
"She created a situation where bears weren't afraid of people anymore," Deputy District Attorney Elijah Michalowski said. "People were telling her she needed to stop, yet she refused. She not only put herself at risk, she put all her neighbors at risk."
Noyes, 61, is being tried this week on charges of harassing wildlife and recklessly endangering another person. If convicted, she could be ordered to pay fines and spend time in prison. Before the trial, she told The Oregonian newspaper that she once fed as many as 25 bears on a regular basis, but is now down to six. "They are perfectly safe," she said. "They are timid and really sweet."
But not when dinner's late.
Last summer, Noyes went on vacation. When she returned, a bear broke her window and she had to call the Department of Fish and Wildlife to get him to leave.
A neighbor, Dena Pickner, testified Thursday that she hadn't seen a bear on her property until last summer; then she saw many. One ended up stuck in the dog door. "He was not afraid of me," she said. "Even when he got stuck in the dog door, he just sauntered around."
Vicky and Derek Prince, who raise endangered farm birds, said they armed themselves when going outdoors last summer because of the large number of bears. The animals damaged fences and sheds, and one stormed the turkey house.
"He ripped open the side of the barn and annihilated our flock," Vicky Prince said. "We lost 60 turkeys."
Noyes is not without support. Her star witness is Lynn Rogers, a biologist featured on Animal Planet TV's "The Man Who Walks With Bears."
"There is no science behind any of these charges," Rogers told The Oregonian. "They are made by people who have no knowledge of bear behavior, people who haven't walked with bears as I have for 42 years."