A 4 1/2-year-old whippet barely escaped death this week after an apparent encounter with a black bear sow and her two cubs outside a South Lake Tahoe home.
The owner of the dog, South Shore resident Bryan Rosner, said he, his wife, Leila, and their 1-year-old son, Judah, were headed out for a hike Monday morning with their whippet, Ender, when the incident occurred.
Shortly after opening the garage door to his parents' home on Silverwood Court for "two minutes" and letting Ender out the front door, the dog came running back into the house with scratches on its hindquarters and a deep gash on its side.
Although Rosner didn't see exactly what happened to Ender, he went outside to find three bears eating a 10-pound bag of dog food they apparently had dragged from the garage to the side of the house.
"I think what happened was my dog probably encountered the bear in close quarters in the garage," Rosner said.
Rosner and a friend tried to scare the bears off, but the bears didn't leave until they finished the dog food.
"We couldn't get rid of them," Rosner said. "We were yelling, and they wouldn't leave."
After about 20 minutes, the bears finished the dog food and apparently left, Rosner said. Thinking the coast was clear, the family prepared to take the dog to Carson City for medical treatment.
But as they left, Rosner had the last-minute thought that the bears still could be around. The hunch proved to be correct, as the sow had come back to the driveway, about 15 feet away from Leila and Judah.
Shaken by the incident, Rosner called the BEAR League and South Lake Tahoe police.
The bears eventually left and - after more than $500 in veterinary care - Ender is expected to make a full recovery. The encounter could have been worse, according to the veterinarian, Rosner said.
"He said if it had gone a quarter-inch further, it would have punctured her lung, and she could have died," Rosner said.
The experience has made the South Shore resident more likely to follow his mother's long-standing advice to be aware of Tahoe's bear population.
"I'll just probably be a little bit more careful with Ender," Rosner said.
Bryan Rosner's parents, Doug and Diane, have reported higher-than-average bear activity in the Silverwood Court area this summer, but the higher level of activity hasn't been consistent throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Spring moisture has decreased the number of bear encounters compared with last year, said Carl Lackey, a biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
Larger amounts of the plants and berries bears like to eat have kept more of the animals feeding on their natural food sources rather than on people's trash, Lackey said.
"This year had been quite a bit slower, mainly because of the natural foods," Lackey said.
Throughout the fall, black bears will be in a state of hyperphagia, a "feeding frenzy" to fatten up before the onset of winter, Lackey said.
"They're trying to put on as much weight as they can before going into hibernation," he said.
The No. 1 recommendation to prevent black bear encounters is to prevent access to human food, Lackey said.
A full list of measures to prevent bear encounters can be found at www.ndow.org/wild/concerns/safety/bear/.