A 3-year-old male black bear trapped Sunday in the Glenbrook area was euthanized Monday morning as a threat to public safety by the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
“This was the second time since late June that we have handled this bear and, based on its lack of fear of humans and the fact that it continues to be too comfortable around humans, we made the decision to euthanize it,” NDOW biologist Carl Lackey stated in a press release.
NDOW game wardens first captured the bear June 24 in the Glenbrook area after receiving reports of a bear attempting to break into homes. Since it could not be confirmed that this was the bear doing the damage, it was released June 25 after being fitted with an identifying ear tag in the mountains above Lake Tahoe.
On June 28, the same bear was photographed by a homeowner in the Galena area, where the bear was suspected in multiple property damage incidents.
“One person in that Galena neighborhood tried to shoo the bear away from his house but the bear actually tried to follow him during this encounter,” Lackey stated. “This kind of behavior shows a level of habituation to humans that can be very dangerous.”
NDOW spokesman Chris Healy said the decision to euthanize the bear was based on its behavior, not the fact that it had previously been handled twice. When biologists handle bears, they put a yellow tag on its ear, which indicates it may have been tagged just for research, he said. When game wardens handle a bear, they put a pink tag on its ear, which indicates it tends to be a bear that could be considered habitual because of where it travels. This particular bear had a pink tag on its ear, he said.
“Part of what caused some big concerns for us was the pattern of travel for this bear,” NDOW spokesman Chris Healy said Monday. “The fact that it was handled twice, but because displaying this kind of behavior, doesn’t merit a third strike.”
The Glenbrook area started seeing increased bear activity in mid-July with property damage reports leading to the setting of traps in the area. The bear that was euthanized was caught in a trap on Sunday and it fit the description of a bear in the area that was displaying “no fear of humans,” Lackey stated.
The bear had been reported as the one that had broken into an outbuilding and was implicated in the death of a goat. The goat was killed in the past few days, Healy said. The recent incidents are what prompted NDOW to set a trap to catch this particular bear. The number on the bear’s ear tag allowed NDOW to confirm it was the same bear involved in the incidents in June.
“The decision was made not because it killed a goat, but because it was displaying too much familiarity with humans, plus being aggressive and going into outbuildings and trying to break into homes,” he said. “All of that together paints a picture of bear already way too familiar with humans,” Healy said. “It has proven it’s willing to, no matter where it was put, seek out humans as sources of food.”
Ann Bryant of the Homewood-based BEAR League said the bruin did nothing wrong and was enticed by a trap set near an unsecured trash bin.
“They follow their noses, which is what any bear would do,” Bryant told the Associated Press. “Now he’s dead. This is exactly what we knew would happen. This is such a tragedy.”
NDOW has euthanized three bears for public safety reasons this year. In January, a bear in Washoe Valley was breaking into structures and displaying bold behavior. In May, in Incline Village, a bear broke into the occupied home of a 92-year-old woman. In that same time period, 22 bears have been handled and released, many of them receiving the aversive conditioning treatment that NDOW uses to deter bears from becoming habituated to humans.
Western Nevada just experienced the hottest July in recorded history and has been in drought for the last two years. Lackey said the bears will soon dramatically increase their food consumption in an effort to put on layers of fat in preparation for hibernation in late November or early December.
“We will see more and more bears searching for food,” he stated. “It is the responsibility of people living in bear country to not attract the bears by poorly handling garbage or leaving other attractants like bird and pet food available.”