Man Refuses To Give Up Fight For Savannah The Bear

Man Refuses To Give Up Fight For Savannah The Bear

Robert Baysinger loves "his" bear like a child. He can barely keep himself together now that she's gone. On Monday afternoon he came home to no Savannah and a ticket taped to his door.
MARSHALL, AR (KARK)--Robert Baysinger remembers the day he found her.  On March 12, Baysinger came across a bear cub crying out after its fur had been singed in a prescribed burn.

Baysinger brought the bear home, fed it milk from a bottle and placed her back out where he found her, hoping her mother would come back. But she never came to collect her baby. 

"I wish her mother never left her," Baysinger said.

At that point, Baysinger took her in, named her Savannah and raised her as his own. She would play with the dogs and hang out on Baysinger's shoulders as he drove around town.

"I've been married to him for 45 years, and I've never seen him bond with anything like her," his wife Nina said.

On Monday, Game and Fish officials along with Searcy County law enforcement arrived at Baysinger's home and took Savannah, leaving nothing but a ticket on his door.

He never got to say goodbye.

Baysinger was told there was a chance some visitation rights could be set up, but that no longer seems like an option.

On Thursday, six months to the day that Baysinger found Savannah, he learned he may never see her again.  But he's not going to stop trying.

"I have not given up, and I will not," Baysinger cried.  "I'm asking Game and Fish to please let me bring her back home. I want to release her back to the mountains where she was born."

Myron Means, biologist and statewide black bear coordinator with the Game and Fish Commission, said Savannah has been sent out of the state to a unique facility where a rehabilitation process will begin in an attempt to release her into the wild.

"That's what a lot of people don't understand," Means said.  "(Baysinger) said he wanted to release her into the wild eventually, but it's not like turning a wild rabbit loose.

"That bear has learned to associate people with food.  I'm not saying it would go up and attack and eat a person.  But he could have gone up to a human and expected them to have food. That's the safety issue that surrounds any severely habituated bear."

Means said he wished Baysinger had turned Savannah over the moment he found her because they have had success fostering orphaned cubs to other female mothers.

"We understand Robert had the best intentions in the world," Means said.

Means, who has studied bears for more than 17 years, also acknowledged how easy it is to fall in love with a cub and throw all reason out the window.

"After years and years holding baby bear cubs, I know firsthand that there's nothing cuter," Means said. "But there's also no animal that can be a bigger public safety threat than a habituated bear."

And in Savannah's case, Means does not believe she will be "unhabituated."

"In my experience dealing with bears for 17-plus years, she will not be rehabilitated," Means said. "Bears are extremely intelligent animals, and you will not uneducate a bear."

Means said the next option would be to find a zoo for Savannah to be placed in. With her being a female, he said she has a better chance.

"Females have a better placement rate because male bears have a tendency to be more aggressive and territorial," Means said.

If rehabilitation fails and they cannot find a zoo to place her in, Means says there's really only one option that remains.  

"We have a year to rehabilitate her or get her in a zoo," Means said. "Unfortunately, as a last resort, we would have to euthanize her." 

As the realization sets in that he may never see his baby girl again, Baysinger fondly remembers their six months together. He remembers how she would climb the trees and pick blackberries, how she loved playing with their swing set and how she reciprocated every bit of Baysinger's love and affection.

"She a lovey little thing," Baysinger sobbed. "She depended on me and she trusted me, and I let her down."

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