Safeway Bear That Stole Groceries Sadly Shot and Killed

by Matthew Memrick

The Safeway Bear, once a 500-pound Lake Tahoe black bear that stole groceries last year, was shot and killed this past summer. 

Last summer, the bear entered a Safeway for groceries amid tourists and made a show. California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials had to get him. The bear reportedly was released into the wild, hopefully never to be heard or seen from again.

Well, that just didn’t happen, folks. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that officials killed the animal after campers complained it was harassing them in August.

Safeway Bear’s Shopping Run

Fish and Wildlife officials believed the bear was 16 or 18 years old and ready to get food by easier ways than hunting.

The Safeway Bear’s trip happened on an August night in 2020. The animal wandered into the Kings Beach grocery store on the north shore of the lake. 

The Safeway Bear made a beeline to the produce section with little resistance from the sliding glass doors. A cellphone camera caught the animal for 11 seconds that turned into a lifetime of social media memes.

The bear also got into the candy at a nearby gas station and ended up on video again. Finally, it stopped at a birthday party at a picnic area for some cake. 

Human Interaction A Bear

While folks could yuk it up over the stops, a bear with no fear of humans is trouble. All it takes is a moment for the bear to snap.

Recently, another bear hit up a South Tahoe vacation rental for food, and when the guests returned, one person shot the animal several times. In other instances, like with the Safeway Bear, Fish and Wildlife officials will have to make a fatal decision.

Sadly, this old bear was just hungry and stubborn. It worked in its favor back in 2020 when officials just moved him to a location in El Dorado County.

Officials observed the animal buck the trend of other bear captures. Instead of running away quickly, this one appeared slow and reluctant to leave the cage. 

“It looked at us. We kept making noises to get it out, and it kept looking at us and looking at us,” North Central Region for Fish and Wildlife Kevin Thomas told the Chronicle in 2020. 

With the release, officials tracked the animal by GPS collar to see if it could change its behavior back to eating natural food.

But that sweet, sweet human food was too much to let go for the Safeway Bear.

A Safeway Bear’s Demise

Officials found the animal’s GPS tracking collar last spring in the Stanislaus National Forest, south of Lake Tahoe. 

They had hoped for a behavior change and shredded pounds because 500 pounds was not an average black bear size. 

The animal died after a family shot it at an Alpine County campground. Officials responded to calls that the bear kept approaching the family’s campsite during the evening and early morning hours. 

The family had done everything correctly with keeping the site clean and trash disposal.  

The officials saw the bear’s ear tag and knew who it was instantly. In a report, they observed the bear had rotting teeth with a starved look.