Human Remains Eaten by Bear in Southern Humboldt

Kym Kemp / Wednesday, Oct. 15 @ 7:31 a.m. /  News

A well-known Southern Humboldt man’s death is the subject of an investigation by the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. According to Deputy Coroner Roy Horton, a bear consumed almost all of the man’s remains though it is unlikely the bear actually killed him.

Horton thinks the evidence so far points to Rainbow Mountain Walker having “collapsed naturally” sometime between Wednesday and Saturday of last week at his rural home between Redway and Briceland. Horton thinks after his death Walker may have been dragged off and eaten by the creature. However, there is a slight possibility that the bear may have attacked Walker and that scenario is being examined as part of the investigation. But there have been no fatalities as the result of wild bear attacks in California since 1875 and neither the Department of Fish and Wildlife nor the Coroner’s Office consider that Walker’s death was the result of one.

Walker, who was a past Vice President of the Southern Humboldt Kiwanis, was reported missing when he didn’t show up for a planned motorcycle run on Saturday. He was last seen Wednesday, October 8. On Monday, October 13, his remains were found during a search of the rural area around his trailer. 

Horton crawled through bushes with a flashlight attempting to locate all Walker’s remains, mostly bones. He said the remains were found in a place where the bear had apparently bedded down for awhile. Bits of bear fur were found in the area. 

I think [Walker] died a natural death,” explained Horton. “Most likely scenario is he was somewhere near home between his house and where he gets his water [from a springbox.]  The bear drug him into where he has been bedding down.” There, Horton said, the bear consumed the remains.

Walker’s door was open and some of the contents of his home might have been disturbed by wild animals. However, Horton said that Walker “had a handgun where he sleeps” and there was no indication that he attempted to access it. Nor, Horton said was there “any indication that [Walker] was dragged from the trailer.”

Horton says that during Thursday’s autopsy the examiner will be looking for anything to indicate that there was a struggle, i.e. broken bones. This, he said, would indicate that a bear had attacked and Walker had tried to defend himself. 

Andrew Hughan, Public Information Officer for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, agreed with Horton that he thinks it unlikely that Walker was killed by a bear. Bears, he explained, “are very much afraid of people.” 

However, his agency is gathering information. “Our game warden collected DNA to make sure it was a bear in the trailer,” he explained. There were other animals that may have gone into the structure and his agency wants to “make 100% sure it was a bear” that entered the residence.

The clothes Walker was wearing were salvaged by the Coroner’s Office and are being tested for the bear’s DNA, too. 

Hughan explained that Wildlife Services (wildlife advocates recently tried to get Humboldt County supervisors to stop renewing their contract with this controversial federal agency) will be attempting to trap this bear. Hughan said that if they catch the bear, DNA will be taken from it and compared to that found on Walker’s clothing. “Realistic chances of finding this offending bear are pretty small,” Hughan stated.

Hughan said that if the DNA matches though, the bear will be destroyed whether or not it is believed that the bear attacked Walker while he was living or scavenged his remains after his death of natural causes.

Hughan sought to calm fears of residents who are worry about a rogue “killer” bear. He explained that at this point authorities don’t have enough information to form conclusions. “We know that a person is dead and was consumed by a bear. That is all we really know at this point.” However, he also specified that “evidence and past history indicate that there is not a bear out there hunting or killing people.” 

An account has been set up to help defray funeral expenses, bills, etc. for Rainbow Mountain Walker’s family. Donations can be made at the Community Credit Union of Southern Humboldt, account number 17455.


Brad Pitt in the Redwoods

Kym Kemp / Wednesday, Oct. 15 @ 6:48 a.m. / They Are Here

Remember when Brad Pitt came to Humboldt for a magazine photo shoot? Want to see the results?

Details magazine (with article titles like “Hot New Homes: Why Just Drink Wine When You Can Buy A Whole Vineyard?” it might not be on your radar) brought out its new issue with Pitt on the cover

Here’s a teaser of what’s under the cover…

See the slideshow of photographer Mark Seliger’s lush shots here as well as, via video, take a ride with Pitt on his Indian through the Redwoods.


Rio Dell Holds Town Meeting on 1% Sales Tax, Measure U

Kym Kemp / Tuesday, Oct. 14 @ 10:42 p.m. /  News

Rio Dell press release:

The city will be holding a Town Hall on the Measure U Sales Tax proposal that is coming before voters on November 4, 2014. There will be a presentation followed by a question and answer session.

Measure U is a 1% sales tax proposal aimed at maintaining and enhancing public safety, streets maintenance and other important city services. The tax expires in 5 years. Prescription medication and groceries are not subject to the tax. These funds by law cannot be raided by Sacramento and will remain 100% in Rio Dell for locally provided services.

Where: Monument Middle School, Multi-Purpose Room, 95 Center Street in Rio Dell

When: October 15, 2014 @ 6:30pm

Fire Fighter Medivacked to Redding Yesterday, Injured During Prescribed Burn

Kym Kemp / Tuesday, Oct. 14 @ 6:21 p.m. /  Fire!

Redwood National and State Park press release:

On Monday, October 13, 2014, National Park Service (NPS) and US Forest Service (USFS) firefighters conducted a prescribed burn in the Upper Lyons Ranch burn unit in the Bald Hills area of Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP). At approximately 2:20 pm, firefighters were burning off of a handline when the winds slightly switched direction across the line causing several spot fires outside of the unit.  Due to the intense smoke, a USFS firefighter was separated from his squad and disoriented. As a result, he deployed his fire shelter on the handline. He was quickly located and escorted a short distance out of the smoke and assessed by an on-site paramedic. As a precautionary measure, the firefighter was airlifted to Shasta Regional Medical Center in Redding, California for follow-up evaluation and was released a short time later with minor injuries to one of his hands. 

A Facilitated Learning Analysis Team comprised of NPS and USFS fire management officers will be in the park later this week to conduct a formal review of this incident. 

The Upper Lyons burn unit consists of 208 acres of grassland and open oak woodland. The burn was initiated around noon on Monday  and concluded successfully at 5:45 pm. RNSP regularly conducts prescribed burns in the prairies and oak woodlands of the Bald Hills. The park’s 2010 Fire Management Plan provides for the use of fire to restore natural and cultural processes, manage exotic plants and conifers encroaching into prairie and oak woodland plant communities, and to interpret and educate the public about the role of fire in the parks. The parks have successfully used prescribed fires to achieve these objectives since the early 1980’s. 

Slip Sliding Away: Road Conditions in Humboldt County

Kym Kemp / Tuesday, Oct. 14 @ 5:17 p.m. /  News

In an awesome move, Humboldt County’s Office of Emergency Services tweeted a link to our road conditions which are…uh…not so awesome. Take a look and see if you need to add extra time into your commute.  

Also, there have been some accidents today so drive carefully please. Slow down in the rain and be cautious. We want you to get home safely.


(UPDATED) Suspicious Death Being Investigated; Decomposed Body Found Near Garberville

Kym Kemp / Tuesday, Oct. 14 @ 12:58 p.m. /  News

 UPDATE, 10/15: Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office press release:

Sheriff’s Office Detectives and the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office continue to investigate the death of a human body located off US 101 near Alderpoint Road, Garberville. The gender and identity of the deceased, along with the cause of death has not been determined due to the body’s decomposition. An autopsy is being scheduled in the near future to assist investigators in determining the cause of death. Further information will be released as it becomes available.

# # #

UPDATE, 5:40 p.m.: A reader sent in this photo and explained that the image was taken about 3 p.m. 

According to the reader, there were approximately six law enforcement vehicles parked in the big turnout north of the Garberville exit. From there, deputies had hiked in to the homeless encampment. They’ve spent several hours at the site.

# # #

UPDATE 2:04 p.m.: Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office press release:

On 10-14-2014, at approximately 10:00 a.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 regarding a possible deceased male at a transient camp off Sprowel Creek Road near the Alderpoint Crossing, Garberville. 

Deputies responded to the area described by the caller and located a deceased male. Due to body being partially covered, Sheriff’s Office Detectives were notified and requested to respond to the scene along with the Humboldt County Coroner prior to moving the deceased. At this time the cause of death is not known and it is being treated as a suspicious death. Further information will be released as it becomes available. 

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this investigation or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriffs Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.


Original post below:

Humboldt County Deputy Coroner Trevor Enright has confirmed that his office is responding to an individual found dead in a homeless encampment near Garberville today.  

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, Lt. Steve Knight responded to our questions in an email. He wrote his office is investigating the death. “We are sending detectives to the scene,” he stated.

We will update with more information as soon as possible.

Missing Man May Be in Mendocino

Kym Kemp / Tuesday, Oct. 14 @ 12:04 p.m. /  Missing