Letter: ‘It is time NDOW was fair to the bears’ | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Letter: ‘It is time NDOW was fair to the bears’

Editor's note: The Tribune confirmed the bear deaths referred to in this letter. The deceased bears were reported as "other" in the Nevada Department of Wildlife's records. NDOW spokesperson Chris Healy, in defending Nevada's bear management policies, made some glaring omissions. Mr. Healy forgot to mention that four bears were killed accidentally by NDOW this year. Three died in snare traps, one eaten alive by another animal, waiting for the "researchers" to check the traps; another drowned after being tranquilized by NDOW's biologist near a body of water. That bear was translocated from the Tahoe basin despite not being the target bear. Ann Bryant of the Bear League is right that management by death is not popular. Why can Mammoth Lakes, under the bear management of Steve Searles, avoid killing any bears for 30 years, yet in Nevada we call a hungry bear lured by unsecured trash a public safety issue and take his/her life? It is time NDOW was fair to the bears and improved their handling of research bears, conflict bears and wild bears who are being hunted using barbaric methods that have been outlawed in the majority of states conducting bear hunts. I share NDOW's frustration at the lack of effective trash ordinances and enforcement which contribute greatly to the plight of bears. Kathryn Bricker Zephyr Cove, Nevada

Three strikes, and now an Incline bear is dead

INCLINE VILLAGE – State wildlife officials euthanized an 80-pound female bear Tuesday, making it the first victim of the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s new three-strike rule regarding nuisance and aggressive black bears. NDOW and Washoe County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a call of a bear sleeping inside a large trash receptacle Tuesday morning near Ski Way Ridge in Incline Village, NDOW biologist Carl Lackey said. Lackey said the bruin had been trapped twice this year in Reno, making Tuesday’s incident the third time it had been caught in a nuisance situation. “We tranquilized it, removed it from the Dumpster, took it to a remote location in the wilderness and humanely put it down,” Lackey said. The incident marked the first time a bruin was euthanized in Nevada using a three-strike rule. Russ Mason, NDOW game division chief, said the rule is part of “The Black Bear Conflict Management Policy and Procedure,” the NDOW’s new bear-handling policy that was enacted within the past two weeks. “It’s meant to standardize how we deal with bears as an agency as a whole,” Mason said. “What we do when handling bears, it’s all authorized, but nothing is spelled out. We want to make sure that if something were to happen, that there is an actual policy there so someone is protected.” The policy explains how NDOW makes decisions when handling nuisance bears, whether it be moving, releasing, tranquilizing or euthanizing them. “It has the three-strike rule in it,” Mason said. “Basically, if we have to handle a bear three times, the third time we kill it.” The policy also discusses when and how NDOW officials can issue depredation permits to private homeowners. A depredation permit gives a private homeowner the right to euthanize a bear or contact an NDOW official to do it. Mason said the policy includes a companion document that explains what NDOW would do in the event a human is injured or killed by a bear. NDOW officials can approve a depredation permit if the bear is viewed as a threat or nuisance, Mason said. “It’s something that probably will be rarely used, but can be used if necessary,” Mason said. The entire policy could be available for viewing as early as next week, as soon as NDOW Director Ken Mayer’s returns from vacation to sign it, Mason said. It already has been enacted, however, for use by NDOW officials in the field. “I’m satisfied with the way it reads now,” Mason said. While the three-strikes rule might be frowned upon, Lackey said its enactment is an unfortunate necessity. “It’s aimed at the increasing number of bear complaints this year,” he said. “Basically, to a large degree people are still not bear-proofing their trash. (The policy) is in response to the increasing number of bear complaints because of that.” Mason agreed. “There’s going to be repeat offenders out there,” he said. “If they keep getting in the habit of getting into someone’s trash and getting rewarded for it, there’s going to be more incidents. “We need to get people in the habit of allowing wildlife to be wild. They’re not little people in fur suits. Just leave them alone.”

News briefs: March 31, 2012

As spring slowly arrives in the Sierra Nevada and the promise of another nuisance bear season arrives, the Nevada Department of Wildlife is urging western Nevada residents to be “Bear Aware” Since Feb. 22, four nuisance bears have been caught by NDOW personnel in Incline Village and Crystal Bay. Significant property damage to houses, cars and even a dry-docked boat was reported by property owners. In addition, the bears showed a lack of fear of humans, according to a Friday statement from NDOW. Three of the bears have been euthanized as dangerous or aggressive. One was caught, given aversive conditioning treatment and released. “I commend citizens for taking precautions and urge them to continue to be aware,” NDOW Director Ken Mayer said in the statement. “This is a public-safety issue and continued emphasis on public education and enforcement of bear-proof trash ordinances will help mitigate any issues.” NDOW has a “three strike” policy for nuisance bears that are found in urban areas, but are generally not causing damage or showing aggressive or unusual behavior. In these instances, bears are tranquilized and released. Most of the time these releases take place in the area near where the bear lives but, depending on the circumstance, the bear may be transported to an area outside of their estimated home range, according to the statement. “At this time of year we see an unfortunate rise in human-wildlife conflicts, and recent encounters in the Lake Tahoe Basin demonstrate that safety and security must be our first priority,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said in the statement. People who want to learn more can visit NDOW’s website at http://www.ndow.org and click the “Bear Aware” link. During the first two weeks of April, deputies from the Douglas County and Lyon County sheriff’s offices will conduct increased traffic enforcement patrols on various highways and roadways in the two counties, according to a Friday statement. The increased patrols will specifically target distracted drivers and unsafe motorcycle riders. National traffic studies have shown targeted patrols provide an increased risk of detection of violators, thereby reducing the number of drivers willing to risk committing violations, according to the statement. “The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is committed to keeping the roads and highways of our community safe,” said Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini. “As part of that effort, we will be conducting additional traffic enforcement details when resources allow, particularly targeting distracted drivers and unsafe motorcycle operators.” He reminded people that hands-free communication devices have been required in Nevada since Oct. 1. This enforcement detail is partially paid for by a grant from the State of Nevada, Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety.

Two bears found dead in South Shore area

Nevada Department of Wildlife reported Tuesday that two bears died recently in the South Shore area. A young female cub was hit and killed by a car recently near Zephyr Cove and two-year-old cub was found dead in a stream, NDOW reported. "There was no sign of obvious trauma but residents in the area had reported a 'lethargic, sickly looking bear' in the area in recent days," an NDOW news release stated about the bear in the stream. Secretary treasurer of the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Tom Millham said people who aren't familiar with different bear sounds may be confused by the sound. What sounds sickly can be indicative of a happy bear. Millham said cubs stick close to the mother bear for the first year or two of their lives. "Normally if they are first-year cubs, born within the last 9 months, they will stay with mom through the first full winter when they turn one year of age," Millham said. "That being the case, if they're not following mom, it's not unusual to see them get hit by cars or get into trouble." Bear activity in the western Nevada area should continue to be busy for the next month, NDOW said "Sierra Nevada black bears usually go into hibernation in between Thanksgiving and Christmas as food sources become harder to find," the release stated. Because bears are going through a state of hyperphagia, a time when bears increase their consumption for hibernation, NDOW reported bears' food intake can rise from 3,000 calories to 25,000 in one day. "Their one and only job is eating this time of year and they are very good at it," NDOW black bear biologist Carl Lackey stated in the release.

NDOW official defends bear policy

Scroll down the Tahoe BEAR League's Facebook thread and it probably won't take long before you find criticisms and even accusations directed toward the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) and their bear management strategy. Ask BEAR League advocacy group executive director Ann Bryant and she'll tell it to you bluntly. "We don't appreciate NDOW's policy at all. It sets up bears to fail," she said in a recent interview with the Tribune, going so far as to call their policies "deplorable." Bryant suggested the wildlife department picks up problem bears and essentially drops them in hunting zones to be killed. It's an accusation that NDOW spokesman Chris Healy said is unwarranted. "That criticism doesn't hold a lot of water if you look at the facts," he said. "On-site releases are actually preferable to us. That's just a fantasy. We don't move the bears around so they can be hunted." He added that what they consider on-site release can span a large distance, but still be within the bear's home territory. Healy pointed toward the organization's records to reinforce his argument. According to NDOW's current 2015 numbers, of 12 bears taken by hunters, only two had been previously tagged by the wildlife department. Their 2014 records do show a larger percentage of tagged bears hunted. The organization's statistics showed hunters claimed 18 bears, nine of which had previously been tagged. Healy pointed out, however, that not all tagged bears are problem bears. NDOW also tags bears they catch and release for research purposes. Nevada annually caps bear hunting permits at 45, but closes the hunt season when 20 bears are taken. Bryant said the BEAR League believes the number of bears hit by cars should be considered when allowing hunting. Healy acknowledged a high number of bears are hit and killed by cars and considers that statistic a more significant concern. "The most dangerous thing to a bear is being hit and killed by a car," he said. Looking further into NDOW's numbers, the department handled a total of 140 bears in 2014. Of those, 18 were hunted, 18 killed by cars, one was killed for public safety and two for depredation — killing livestock. Another three were found deceased from undetermined causes. Healy said, in those unknown circumstances, they often suspect causes of death but do not have enough evidence. Their numbers so far this year also show 19 bears killed by cars, seven for public safety, 12 hunted and five died of unknown causes. A total of 114 bears have been handled by NDOW as of Friday, Nov 13. "We do our best to keep the bears alive and wild," Healy said, pointing to the number they handle successfully. "When we have to euthanize a bear, it's not the first thought we have. We do all we can." He pointed to trash management as the larger problem. "We're not the garbage people," he said. "That's where the problem is." Bryant agreed that trash management is a major concern and said more public education is necessary, which she believes NDOW could do a better job of currently. "People need to understand what to do," Bryant said. "We just think they (NDOW) overreact and promote fear." The South Lake Tahoe Basin Waste Management Joint Powers Authority is currently considering policy revisions.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Think before you call NDOW with bear calls

The Nevada Department of Wildlife has a little-publicized Three Strikes policy that broadly affects anyone who lives in bear country. According to Mike Dobel, NDOW Game Supervisor, “A bear shall be humanly killed if, despite the application of deterrent methods, has been captured or otherwise handled three (3) times by NDOW to resolve nuisance concerns.” He further adds “A bear shall be humanely killed if it demonstrates three (3) times a loss of wariness of humans displayed through three (3) captures near permanent structures, buildings or dwellings frequently used by humans.” That this means is, if you call the sheriff or NDOW because of a bear in your neighborhood, NDOW records a “strike” against that bear, and the third time the bear is killed. NDOW further classifies “to resolve nuisance concerns” anytime they must respond to a call, regardless of how benign the bear’s actions are. A bear in the tree in the forest near your home, strike one. A bear crosses the street to get into the woods, strike two. A bear nibbling on the bird seed you put out, strike three – and it is dead. As the BEAR League says, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” And I would add, “think before you call NDOW.” Don’t let them keep executing bears for doing what bears do. Only call if the bear is a threat or doing serious damage. Mark Smith Incline Village

Tahoe Daily Tribune editorial: When it comes to bears, take your concerns to the next level

Another black bear was killed on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe Monday after the Nevada Department of Wildlife decided it was a threat. The bear had broken into homes and, despite being relocated miles away, made its way back to the same area to carry out the same habits of destroying property, according to NDOW. Authorities say the bear was too familiar with humans. Part of what draws many people to the area is the variety of outdoor activity and, with that, comes the wildlife. It's an indisputable fact that the wildlife was here before humans settled. But we're here now, and show no signs of going away. The bears are going to continue to look for food, so be responsible by putting away your trash and using bear boxes when camping, etc. If a bear knows it can find food or trash left out in a certain spot, it will likely return. Do what you can to be aware of the bears. As with any bear killing, people on both sides of the issue — those dubbed the "bear killers" or "bear murderers" and those who are referred to as "bear huggers" — have already been vocal. Arguments have started on the Tahoe Daily Tribune Facebook page and website, as well as in other forums and sites that have reported the incident. While creating dialogue with each other is a good thing, we also encourage you to take your concerns to the next level. No one wants the bears to be killed. But the practices won't change unless something is done at the legislative level or by the Nevada Wildlife Commission, which oversees NDOW. If you have thoughts on how the policies should be changed, contact the agency that has the power to make those changes. To request that the Nevada Wildlife Commission reconsider its bear policy, email nbwcinfo@ndow.org. To get in touch with a Nevada Wildlife Commission board member, visit tinyurl.com/NDOWcommissioners. For tips on being bear aware, visit http://www.savethebears.org.

Bear euthanized for preying on livestock

A male black bear was euthanized Friday for preying on livestock in Genoa, according to the Nevada Department of Wildlife. The approximately 6-year-old bear had been handled by NDOW twice before. The first time it was captured was in March 2013 near a lambing area in Jacks Valley, just north of Genoa. The second time was earlier this year, when NDOW personnel were searching for a bear that killed four goats inside an enclosure in Genoa. After the incident, a trap was set and the bear was caught. But it could not be determined if the captured bear was the same one that killed the livestock. The bear, wearing an identifying ear tag after its first capture, was then taken to an area about 80 miles south of Gardnerville and released. That same bear returned to Genoa this past week, punched a hole in the side of a small barn and entered the enclosure, killing two goats. The offending bear was caught in an NDOW trap Friday morning and was euthanized once it was properly identified. It was the first bear killed in 2014 for depredating on livestock, according to NDOW. Two bears were euthanized in 2013 for the same reason.

Black bear caught and released near Stateline

Nevada Department of Wildlife released a 3-year-old female black bear Thursday after trapping her Wednesday near Stateline, Nev. The bear was trapped in a time-share condominium project on the South Shore. According to NDOW spokesman Chris Healy, the agency had received reports of a bear trying to break into condos, so they set a trap. He said it was the first time they have encountered this particular bear, which didn't have any identification and had not broken into anything or done any damage. "This is the first time we have handled this bear. She weighed only 150 pounds and that indicates she is not yet a garbage bear," NDOW biologist Carl Lackey stated in a press release. "We were able to give her a healthy dose of aversion conditioning treatment during the release. When we can shoot a bear with rubber bullets and chase her with the Karelian bear dogs, it gives us a real chance to change the bear's behavior and keep it from becoming too acclimated to humans." The female bear was not nursing so there was a not a cub to worry about during the capture and aversion conditioning process, NDOW stated. The bear was also fitted with an ear tag, received a tattoo on her inside lip in case the ear tag falls off and the bear is handled again and had hair and blood samples taken as part of an ongoing research project. Healy said this is a standard practice that helps NDOW track the movement of bears, which is part of one of the longest ongoing studies in North America. The capture and release of the bear was also witnessed by a crowd of timeshare tenants. Lackey says that he has worked with the managers of the time share for many years to make sure that tenants do not attract bears, knowingly or unknowingly, to the complex, according to the release. "When we receive cooperation like this, we can save most of these bears from becoming too dangerous to save," he stated. Western Nevada just experienced the hottest July in recorded history and has been in drought for the last two years. Lackey said that 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. 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," he said. Lackey indicated that NDOW's assistance has been asked for in two different areas on Nevada's side of the south shore of Lake Tahoe. "The people in the area have asked for help with nuisance bear activity. Hopefully we can get to these bears and perform aversive conditioning before they begin breaking into homes." To report nuisance bear activity, call the NDOW's Bear Hotline telephone number at 775-688-2327. For information on living with bears, visit http://www.ndow.org and click on the "Bear Logic" page.

Bear euthanized for preying on livestock

A male black bear was euthanized Friday for preying on livestock in Genoa, according to the Nevada Department of Wildlife. The approximately 6-year-old bear had been handled by NDOW twice before. The first time it was captured was in March 2013 near a lambing area in Jacks Valley, just north of Genoa. The second time was earlier this year, when NDOW personnel were searching for a bear that killed four goats inside an enclosure in Genoa. After the incident, a trap was set and the bear was caught. But it could not be determined if the captured bear was the same one that killed the livestock. The bear, wearing an identifying ear tag after its first capture, was then taken to an area about 80 miles south of Gardnerville and released. That same bear returned to Genoa this past week, punched a hole in the side of a small barn and entered the enclosure, killing two goats. The offending bear was caught in an NDOW trap Friday morning and was euthanized once it was properly identified. It was the first bear killed in 2014 for depredating on livestock, according to NDOW. Two bears were euthanized in 2013 for the same reason.