“Heavenly” bear facing life in captivity | TahoeDailyTribune.com

“Heavenly” bear facing life in captivity

A young black bear dubbed "Heavenly" after he was found injured and approaching people at Heavenly Ski Resort in March must spend his life in captivity, having become too accustomed to people for food. The bear was treated for his injuries for six weeks at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care in South Lake Tahoe. Injuries included a puncture wound and abrasions on his shoulder and scraped up pads on his feet. California wildlife officials then released the 1-year-old bear back into the wild near Monitor Pass. Within a week he was found in a neighborhood near Cave Rock approaching people. "We were hoping after he healed he would go free, but he decided he didn't want to be a free bear," said Cheryl Millham, of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. "He obviously had been imprinted when he was a youngster, and people should realize when they think they are helping these animals (by feeding them) they are not. It's a death warrant and he is total proof of that." Nevada Department of Wildlife trapped the bear on Monday, spokesman Chris Healy said. The goal was to release the bear back into the wild. But after talking to California wildlife officials and examining the bear's behavior it became obvious the animal is too acclimated to humans, Healy said. California wildlife officials are searching for an animal sanctuary or zoo that will accept the bear. Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care agreed to hold the bear until a home is found. "We were able to work with California for them to find a place to put the bear. We could do it this time, but this is not something we can do with every single bear we are forced to handle, because there are not an unlimited amount of places we can put bears," Healy said. According to Healy, NDOW wildlife biologist Carl Lackey said the bear displayed signs of being a "multigenerational garbage bear," a bear whose parents rely on people and garbage for food and teach their cubs how to get into people's garbage for food, rather than how to survive in the wild. "Unfortunately for the bear, it now has to spend its life in some cage rather than as a wild animal. The people who don't take care of their garbage or deliberately feed the bears can take credit for that one," Healy said.

Bear turns heads at World Cup

It's been a warm, dry winter in South Lake Tahoe. But a bear out on the ski slopes in mid-January? That's what happened Friday when a black bear ambled across the World Cup run at Heavenly Mountain Resort during the Far West Masters race. Skiers took a brief pause to let the bruin cross the slope without incident and disappear into the woods on the other side. "We're used to dry winters, but this one is almost historically dry," said Chris Healy, public information officer for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. "When we've had open winters like this in the Tahoe Basin, we've had instances where bears either don't hibernate or hibernate partially." Some bears out this time of year are what the department calls "urban interface" bears. They won't hibernate if they have easy access to food made available by people, Healy said. Nevada Department of Wildlife has documented bears that wake up on garbage collection days, go out and raid cans, put some food in their stomachs and then return to their dens to go back to sleep. With such a mild winter, there might be some natural food around for bears to scrounge up in the wild this time of year. But the best thing people can do for both themselves and for the bears is not feed them, Healy said. "If it's a wild land bear, for the most part they're hibernating. It's these bears acclimated to human activity, they're the ones that seem to be awake this time of year," Healy said. "One of the best things we could have happen here is to get a nice big snow storm to keep them down a while." Cheryl Millham, of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, said bears are not in a real deep sleep right now because of the weather. A week ago, a tourist on the South Shore was letting his dog run loose when it found a bear sleeping under an empty house and harassed it. The bear woke up came out after the dog. "They're not out and about unless they're disturbed, or if the weather stays the way it is they'll come out and raid some garbage cans," Millham said. "That's why people still need to take care of their bird feeders and their garbage and follow the laws on dogs."

Nevada Department of Wildlife euthanizes bear caught in Stateline

STATELINE, Nev. — Nevada Department of Wildlife officers captured a female bear cub near Kingsbury Grade in Stateline early Friday, Aug. 28, and later euthanized it for public safety concerns. According to Chris Healy, Nevada Department of Wildlife's public information officer, the bear was identified; it recently broken into two different houses in the Kingsbury area in search of food. This is the fifth bear Nevada Department of Wildlife euthanized in 2015 and the second in a week. On Tuesday, Aug. 25, a 9-year-old male bear was captured in Incline Village on the North Shore and put down. "We hate having to do this but a bear entering a house is a dangerous bear and the Nevada Department of Wildlife is obligated to manage the situation," Healy stated in an Aug. 28 news release. "We have an obligation to public safety that we do not take lightly. People have called and asked us to move the bear, but we cannot move a bear that we know to be dangerous. That just would not be prudent." Healy said the yearling came from a female bear Nevada Department of Wildlife previously encountered. Nevada Department of Wildlife euthanized two other cubs from other litters by the same female. Healy said the mother bear, first caught in 2004 and now 19 or 20 years old, taught multiple cubs to rely on garbage and other human-generate food as primary meal sources. Healy called Friday's unfortunate euthanization a reminder that people should manage garbage better, especially in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Healy said he expects Nevada Department of Wildlife to receive negative feedback over the matter, but he stressed the agency has no other option when it comes to nuisance bears. Nevada Department of Wildlife, he added, has encouraged other agencies in the Lake Tahoe Basin to provide policy for mandatory bear-resistant containers. The Sierra Sun recently reported that a "six-year-old sow and her cub were trapped Tuesday, Sept. 1, in Crystal Bay along Lake Tahoe's North Shore." They will be moved and released since both bears are not considered a threat. Since 1997, Nevada Department of Wildlife euthanized only 108 bears for public safety concerns. An it reports 188 bears have died in Nevada from traffic collisions, as of 2014. The agency has handled nearly 1,300 overall bears since 1997.

Stay ‘bear aware’ during winter in the Lake Tahoe region

While the calendar is turning to December and recent snowfall continues to blanket much of the Lake Tahoe region, area wildlife officials warn that now is not the time to become lax on precautions intended to avoid bear-and-human interactions. "Now is definitely not the time to let up on your guard," said Chris Healy, public information officer for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. "It's extremely important for people to know that bears are still out there and, in some cases, still searching for food." Bears typically enter hibernation for winter between Thanksgiving and Christmas, meaning it is common to still see a bear up and about, although that might be less likely after this past weekend's storm, according to Healy. NDOW tracks some bears by using remote collars, and that data show the bears are not traveling very far, a sign that the bears are preparing for hibernation, if they have not already done so. And while most bears will hibernate through the winter months — with young males typically emerging from the den in early March and sows with cubs emerging in April — that is not always the case with bears in more populated areas, commonly referred to as the urban interface. In some instances, particularly during light winters with sparse snowfall, wildlife officials have documented bears in the urban interface awakening from hibernation on trash nights to feed on garbage, Healy said. "It's not all of them, but … we've documented it enough where we know it can be a bit of a challenge." For those reasons, it is important that people in bear country — both those visiting and those residing in — be "bear aware" year-round, Healy said. That includes never feeding a bear and making it more difficult to access trash. Around this time of year it is especially important to cut off access to crawl spaces and similar sites that bears might look at as potential hibernation dens. "In order to properly take care of these bears in the urban interface areas you just can't let your guard down," Healy said. "Don't think that they're all sleeping because the next thing you know is you'll have a bear knocking over your garbage … "

Bear hunt back from hibernation

Nevada's controversial bear hunt began its third season Sunday, and will continue into its fourth if the Nevada Department of Wildlife has its way. The state's bear population, which consists of anywhere between 400 and 700 bears, is more than enough to allow a limited hunt, spokesman Chris Healy said. For this reason, he said the department will likely recommend continuing the program when the Nevada Wildlife Commission reviews it in a few months. "We've been told by the legislation and wildlife commission that after three years, we would look at the number and discuss what are we doing right, what are we doing wrong, where does the population stand," he said. In 2010, the Nevada Department of Wildlife estimated there were about 350 to 450 bears in the state, Healy said. But the department anticipates that number has grown significantly over the last three years. The bear hunt is "tremendously beneficial" to the department because it helps track data, such as the animal's population, Healy said. But Kathryn Bricker, executive director of NoBearHuntNV, disagrees. "We've had various internationally recognized ecologists and biologists review the data and they all said that hunting is not a necessary management tool," Bricker said. "They hunt because they want to hunt, not because they want to manage the population." Healy, however, said hunting is a well-recognized tool of wildlife management. "If we are going to stack up experts," he said, "our experts will win that debate." Starting in 2011, bears in Nevada could be hunted in limited number. Fourteen were killed in 2011 and 11 were killed in 2012. No bears have been killed in 2013 so far, but the limit is 20. Since its inception, the hunt has attracted criticism from several organizations defending the bears, which are primarily killed in an area southeast of Minden and Gardnerville. No hunting is allowed on the Nevada side of the Tahoe Basin, following a decision in 2011 to appease critics. But Bricker said it's not enough. "We're all very glad that they made that exclusion," she said. "However we feel the same about the bears in the Pine Nut (Mountains) and Sweet Water (Range)." Bricker is concerned that the state's bear population is much lower than the Department of Wildlife estimates, she said. However, Healy said hunters aren't the bears' biggest threat. "The most dangerous thing to a bear is not a hunter," he said, "it's a car." Cars have killed 158 bears in Nevada since 1997, according to data from the Nevada Department of Wildlife. About 80 were killed for public safety during the same period. "Harvesting 25 bears in two years is by no means going to put the population in any kind of danger," Healy said of the last two Nevada bear hunts. The decision to either continue or discontinue a bear hunt in Nevada ultimately lies with the state's wildlife commission. The Nevada Dept. of Wildlife will make a recommendation to the commission later this year or early next year, Healy said, but calling off a bear hunt at this point would take a "biological disaster." This year's hunt will end Dec. 31. In California, about 35,000 bears roam The Golden State, said Jason Holley, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Of those, about 1,700 are killed from hunting each year. California also allows bear hunting in many areas of the Tahoe Basin.

Bear hunt rules back before board

GENOA, Nev. – With a week before the Nevada Commission on Wildlife is scheduled to discuss making temporary regulations on a bear hunt permanent, the number of bears taken by hunters has fallen off dramatically. The last bear taken was on Aug. 28, according to state wildlife division spokesman Chris Healy. “I can only speculate why,” he said of the two-week lull. “Some hunters are waiting for the weather to get colder. I’ve heard some say they want to wait for fall. They do have a long season.” Seven black bears have been killed so far in Nevada’s first hunt, the largest of which, a 700-pound male, was killed in the Carson Range between Kingsbury Grade and Highway 50. Healy said that all seven bears so far killed in the hunt have not had contact with the state. “All seven of these bears are new to us,” he said. “They’ve not been trapped, or tagged or tattooed. None of them has been handled by us at all.” Healy said he suspects that the bear taken near Kingsbury Grade probably had raided some garbage cans, but that he hadn’t been caught. Any hunter who has shot a black bear is required to contact the Nevada Department of Wildlife within 24 hours of the kill. Within 72 hours a hunter is required to present the bear skull and hide with evidence of gender attached to confirm the kills. Healy said hunters aren’t required to eat the meat, but all but three or four of the 41 hunters attending the indoctrination meeting said they would. Hunters also can’t do whatever they want with the bear. “You can sell the hide and the head, and all that, but you cannot sell internal organs,” Healy said. “You can’t sell the meat of any big game animal, but you could donate it if people wanted the meat and were willing consumers.”

2 bears killed on opening weekend of Nevada hunt

RENO – Two female bears were killed during the opening weekend of the first bear hunting season in state history, state wildlife officials said Sunday. One was shot in the Carson Range near Verdi west of Reno, while the other was taken in the Pine Nut Mountains near Minden south of Reno, said Chris Healy, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. The hunter who bagged the bear in the Carson Range near Verdi used a pack of dogs to track the animal, Healy said. Under regulations approved by state wildlife commissioners, hunters are prohibited from shooting female bears with cubs. “We made it clear to hunters that ignorance is not a defense here,” Healy told The Associated Press. “Before you make an attempt to harvest a bear, you better know what kind of bear it is.” Healy said he thinks the killing of the two female bears will prompt some hunters to join the hunt sooner than they wanted. NDOW has issued 41 bear hunting tags for the season that runs through the end of December. Regulations allow 20 bears to be killed, and of those, no more than six can be female. The season will end once four more female bears are killed. “With only four female bears left in the harvest, it would be certainly logical to anticipate that we’re going to have an increase in activity of remaining bear hunters,” Healy said. Wardens said at least 15 to 20 hunters were in the field on the opening weekend, and no problems were reported. The state has an estimated 300 to 400 black bears, with most living in the Carson Range on Lake Tahoe’s east shore. Other bears live in the Pine Nut, Wassuk and Sweetwater mountains to the south of Reno. Before approving the hunt last December, wildlife commissioners maintained the state’s bear population can support one and that hunting might reduce human-bear conflicts in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area by giving the bruins a fear of people. But opponents said Nevada has too few bears to sustain a hunt, and hunting would have no impact on human-bear conflicts. Organizers of NoBearHuntNevada.org last week delivered 15,000 petition signatures opposing the hunt to Gov. Brian Sandoval in Carson City, but he declined their request to halt it. A state judge earlier rejected a lawsuit filed by the group to stop the hunt.

Wildlife agencies ask people to be bear aware

California and Nevada wildlife officials are reminding people to be "bear aware" and act responsibly in bear country. Throughout spring and summer, California Department of Fish and Wildlife receives numerous calls about black bears breaking into homes, rummaging through garbage bins and raiding campsites. Such bears are often labeled "nuisance" bears, but they are mostly just doing what comes naturally to them, foraging for food and getting into whatever happens to be left out for them by people, according to wildlife officials. "Human-bear conflicts are largely the fault of humans. People need to adjust their behavior when they live and recreate in bear country," Jesse Garcia, bear program manager for CDFW, said in a press statement. "It is absolutely necessary to secure food and trash receptacles to avoid attracting bears. Campers and residents can prevent expensive property damage, safeguard people from injury and save the lives of bears by exercising a little common sense," Garcia said. "Bears that become habituated to humans or conditioned to eating our food and trash often have to be killed." May is "Be Bear Aware Month" in California. Across the state line, Nevada Department of Wildlife is planning a bear awareness campaign for the month of July, but spokesman Chris Healy said people living or vacationing in bear country need to be bear-aware all of the time. Lake Tahoe Basin is a challenging bear area, Healy said. It's prime bear habitat mixed with lots of people and large tourist populations turn over almost every week during the summer vacation season. The solution to most bear-human conflicts is as simple as people not leaving food or garbage out to attract bears, according to Healy. "If you don't want bears, don't leave food out. That includes garbage, bird feeders, pet food, things like that. If you don't want bears, don't do anything to attract them," Healy said. "Our biologist Carl Lackey has had some success reaching out to homeowners associations, condos and those kinds of things, trying to emphasize the need for bear awareness. But with all of the vacation rentals, it does get to be a little more difficult." NDOW is also having problems with a group of people who are interfering with its bear management activities and claiming the agency kills every bear it traps, Healy said. A Truckee woman and Reno woman this week were found guilty of tampering with a culvert-style trap that NDOW set up at Lake Tahoe to capture a nuisance black bear. Another trap in Incline Village was tampered with this week as NDOW tried to capture a black bear that broke into a house on Sunday. "We were hindered in our ability to trap that bear because word got out the trap was up there," Healy said, adding that such interference delays intervention and adverse conditioning and ultimately hurts the chances of a bear's survival. "There is a small but active and organized group that doesn't understand that when they hinder us in getting to a bad bear early, it allows the bear to continue to display more and more bad behavior, breaking into houses, and then it becomes a problem bear and sometimes it has to be killed," Healy said. "We hate to point the finger like that, but unfortunately we're meeting up with some ill-advised and willfully ignorant opposition to what we do." Healy said NDOW has handled more than 1,100 bears since 1987 and only had to kill about 100 of them. "We don't want to kill bears. We want to do all we can to keep them wild," Healy said. "But we also have to keep the public safe. We have to manage wildlife and keep the public safe and no one else in this debate has that responsibility."

Bear hunt toll up to seven

MINDEN – Three more bears were hunted and killed over the weekend, bringing the total for Nevada’s first bear hunt to seven. Two of the bears were taken in the Pine Nut Mountains and a third was taken in the Pine Grove Mountains south of Smith Valley. “This is not a surprise,” said Nevada Department of Wildlife Spokesman Chris Healy. “We knew they were going to be in those places.” Healy said that all seven bears so far killed in the hunt have not had contact with the state. “All seven of these bears are new to us,” he said. “They’ve not been trapped, or tagged or tattooed. None of them has been handled by us at all.” Healy said he suspects that the 700-pound bear taken near Kingsbury Grade probably had raided some garbage cans, but that he hadn’t been caught. Any hunter who has shot a black bear is required to contact the Nevada Department of Wildlife within 24 hours of the kill. Within 72 hours a hunter is required to present the bear skull and hide with evidence of gender attached to confirm the kills. Healy said hunters aren’t required to eat the meat, but all but three or four of the 41 hunters attending the indoctrination meeting said they would. Hunters also can’t do whatever they want with the bear. “You can sell the hide and the head, and all that, but you cannot sell internal organs,” Healy said. “You can’t sell the meat of any big game animal, but you could donate it if people wanted the meat and were willing consumers.” Healy said hunters can’t abandon the kill once it’s occurred. During the mandatory meeting held before the bear hunt, hunters received training on how to field dress their kill. Hunters were also warned not to eat meat from a bear that has been recently tagged.

Black bear at beach killed, deemed public safety threat

LAKE TAHOE (AP) — A bear that experts determined was posing a threat to people at Lake Tahoe was killed Wednesday by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the first bear put down for public safety concerns in 2014. It's an indication this summer could be a particularly busy season for conflicts with the animal, experts say. The 3-year-old male black bear was darted at Glenbrook and later chemically euthanized in Reno, said Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy. The bear had demonstrated behavior that convinced officials it posed a danger to humans, Healy said. "It just was not acting wild and it was a very dangerous bear," Healy said. "It was climbing on top of cars and trying to enter homes. It was just way too familiar with people." Since early July, Department of Wildlife officials have captured and later released five other bears that wandered into neighborhoods — two in Incline Village, one in Glenbrook, one in Caughlin Ranch and one in Carson City. When released, the bears were subjected to so-called "aversion conditioning," being shot with rubber bullets and chased by specially trained dogs in an effort to discourage future contact with humans. The bear killed Wednesday, previously captured as a cub in Carson City in 2011 and again in Glenbrook last year, was deemed to be too dangerous to be given another chance. "We're pretty confident we do all we can to keep bears alive and wild," Healy said. "We only do this as a last resort." Last year, five bears were killed after being deemed threats to public safety. Critics contend the Department of Wildlife is far too eager to kill bears in Nevada. "Here we go again," said Ann Bryant, founder of the nonprofit organization The Bear League, established in the late 1990s with the goal of minimizing conflicts between people and Tahoe's bears. "NDOW is putting down way too many bears," Bryant insists. "We don't agree killing is the answer. It takes away the respect for bears and that is what people need to live with them." Continuing drought conditions have diminished the supply of berries and other natural foods sought by bears, putting them on the prowl for garbage and other human-related munchies. Activity thus far in July appears to support concerns 2014 could prove a particularly busy year for bear problems, possibly rivaling the record year of 2007, Healy said. Saturday's arrival of a full moon is likely to bring a spike in incidents, Healy said. Bryant said The Bear League is getting about 15 calls per day about bears entering homes but that from her perspective, bear activity this summer is roughly at normal levels. "So far, it's not as bad as I thought it would be," Bryant said.