Nevada report tracks bear complaints in Lake Tahoe region | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Nevada report tracks bear complaints in Lake Tahoe region

As Lake Tahoe bear activity escalates before winter hibernation, Nevada Department of Wildlife is tracking the data. Drought conditions and human error involving trash are said to directly impact growing bear issues. According to a 2014 report by Carl Lackey, the Nevada Department of Wildlife's chief biologist, 704 human-bear conflicts were reported in 2014, up from 498 in 2013. The report encompasses Western Nevada — including Washoe, Douglas, Carson counties and outlying regions. Chris Healy, the department's spokesperson, said bear calls in 2015 have spiked, and this wildlife bear activity is already expected to pass 2014. With bears entering into an autumn period of increased calorie consumption, those numbers will continue to grow. "If we surpass numbers in 2014, it's going to be one hell of a September," Healy said. Incline Village, on Lake Tahoe's North Shore, received 100 bear calls alone in 2014, which made up 15 percent of bear complaints last year. Another 14 percent of 2014's complaints came from Douglas County, including Stateline and Zephyr Cove on the South Shore. Human-generated trash is a central cause of bear issues in the Lake Tahoe Basin, officials said. Responsibility for trash removal and control falls to local governments and residents. "If you are going to live in bear country, you have the responsibility to keep trash contained," Healy said, adding that bears pay the ultimate price. Nevada Department of Wildlife also tracks bear capture-and-release statistics. According to the report, Nevada "handled" 906 bears between 2005 and 2014. Animals are tagged, tattooed or, more recently, implanted with scannable microchips. Healy said markings allow the department to determine whether bears were encountered in the past. Additionally, the state catalogs DNA from dead or captured bears. Nevada Department of Wildlife has often received criticism for how it handles black bears. In 2015 alone, five bears were euthanized in the Lake Tahoe Basin after being deemed "problem bears." Drought conditions contributed to the number of calls, Healy said. When nuts, berries and other natural sources of food aren't prevalent, they start sniffing around people's trash for meals. "The drought drives bear activity, and it's exacerbated because some are close to urban areas like Lake Tahoe," he explained. While most captured bears are released, those deemed repeat offenders are killed. Euthanization numbers fluctuate depending on year, however. Nevada put down only one bear in 2014, compared to 17 killed in 2008. A male bear captured on Aug. 25 in Incline was put down. On Aug. 28, a captured female yearling in the Kingsbury area of Stateline was also euthanized after getting into a garage. Both occasions included use of a bear trap. A third occasion trapped a mother and her cub on Sept. 1 in Crystal Bay, which stirred controversy. Nevada Department of Wildlife said the trap was not intended for a mother and cub, and the bears were released on Sept. 2. "The last thing we want to do is euthanize," Healy said. "We want [bears] wild and to not see them around neighborhood areas." Another trend Nevada Department of Wildlife is tracking is mother bears teaching cubs to rely on humans for food. The Kingsbury bear Nevada Department of Wildlife euthanized on Sept. 28 came from a litter tracked by wildlife officials for almost two decades. Two other bears from different litters by the same sow were also euthanized for public safety reasons. Recent bear-management techniques caused organizations like Homewood-based BEAR League to be critical of how Nevada handles its bear population. Ann Bryant, the BEAR League's executive director, said Nevada Department of Wildlife plays into people's fears and hypes bear danger. "It's time to get serious about educating people on bears," she said. "The most likely chance of being attacked by a black bear would be in the deep wilderness where there is no human contact." Instead of telling people that bears accustomed to humans are dangerous, education on trash containment is more effective, Bryant continued. The Lake Tahoe Basin should support mandatory bear-proof containers. "We should be able to be smarter than bears," she said. "Instead people play into the hype and are told that they are dangerous." For more information about Nevada Department of Wildlife, visit http://www.ndow.org. Note: This version updates the correction to the number of bears NDOW handled between 2005 and 2014.

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.

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.

Food comes with instructions to protect bears

Human food should never become bear food. Wildlife advocates have found a new way to communicate that message. The Tahoe Council for Wild Bears has enlisted the help of Safeways across Northern California and Hawaii to distribute grocery bags that list ways to keep bears in the forest and away from a back yard. Starting today, and lasting for two weeks, the chain of grocery stores will hand out grocery bags with a printed message “Keep Bears Alive and Wild.” Tips listed on the bags include asking not to feed bears in the high country and how to store trash and food. The campaign will be kicked off Wednesday at a Safeway in Sacramento. “The reason we’re doing the event in Sacramento honestly is because we’ll get more media attention,” said Melinda Booth of Defenders of Wildlife, which is also backing the effort. “And to target (Tahoe) vacationers who are probably least informed on the issue.” Defenders of Wildlife is one of 11 groups that has formed a partnership to let people know that human or pet food left in the wrong place can result in the death of a bear. “This message will be really successful if people in bear country not only learn to bag their trash, but to put it in bear- resistant containers as well,” said Carl Lackey, of the Nevada Division of Wildlife. Lackey tags and tracks bears routinely attracted to Dumpsters, barbecue grills and pet food. If a bear comes back one too many times or if a bear enters a house, Lackey often puts the animal down. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife adheres to a similar policy. The Tahoe Council for Wild Bears includes: the Animal Protection Institute, the BEAR League, California Department of Fish and Game, Defenders of Wildlife, Echo Lakes Environment Fund, the Human Society of the United States, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, McClintock Metal Fabrications Inc., Nevada Division of Wildlife, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the U.S. Forest Service. — Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com

Bears waking after winter slumber

Just as the shoulder season begins and the number of vacationers visiting the South Shore temporarily declines, Lake Tahoe’s traditional residents start to emerge from hibernation. Welcome to the TahoeNotebook. Click here to add or comment on this story http://www.ourtahoe.org/addnotebook.php?url=666 Nevada Department of Wildlife estimated approximately 200 to 300 bears are concentrated along Nevada’s western edge, a border dotted by cities where food waste is increasingly attractive to bears. “Urban areas are in a lot of ways better than the backcountry,” said Carl Lackey, wildlife biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “Last year we had a lot of break-ins. They always break into the kitchen or go straight towards the kitchen. A lot of times they’ll ignore people in the house.” Lackey has yet to hear of any bear break-ins in Nevada this season, but anticipated they could begin “any day now.” Break-ins from bears refusing to hibernate have continued through the winter in California, including repeated car and home intrusions in the Meyers area from a black bear weighing well over 500 pounds recently euthanized by California Department of Fish and Game, according to Jason Holley, wildlife biologist for the department. If his weight estimates are accurate, the bear may be the largest ever recorded at the South Shore. This discovery puts California directly in line with Lackey’s Nevada findings. The wildlife biologist, who works closely with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said he’s seeing urban areas with bigger bears, in higher densities, reproducing in greater numbers than years’ past. Black bears tend to give birth to one or two cubs toward the beginning of February, but 2006 saw an increased number of triplets, and even some reports of quadruplets. Lackey reasoned the increased number of cubs is due to females going into the winter months in extremely good shape after dining on carelessly disposed of food waste throughout the rest of the year. “Encouraging people to bear-proof their trash, that would solve the problem,” he said. Despite the high birth rates, Lackey estimates the local bear population to be stable, due in no small part to the dangers bears face when foraging in urban areas. Mortality rates increase 1,500 percent for Nevada bears who grow accustomed to residential areas. Thirty-two black bears were killed last year, with car accidents being the biggest cause of death “by far,” according to Lackey. “It’s rare for a family with three or four cubs to make it to maturity,” said Ann Bryant, executive director of the BEAR League, a Lake Tahoe-based nonprofit organization that advocates diversionary rather than lethal tactics in dealing with the basin’s bear population. Bryant echoed Lackey’s emphasis on keeping trash properly secured to keep bears away from the perils of city life, but encouraged further steps. Rather than cooing in amazement or gawking at a bear with camera in hand, she suggested people take it upon themselves to discourage bears from coming onto private property. Clapping and yelling, or banging on a window while safely inside a residence should be enough to scare the generally docile black bear into the backcountry, according to Bryant. “We are now the dominant species, and we have to act like it,” said Bryant. “We can’t do that if we’re afraid.” — By Adam Jensen, AJensen@TahoeDailyTribune.com Welcome to town Even among the Canada goose and two species of squirrels currently calling Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care home, the center’s newest addition remains quite the peculiarity. “This is the smallest and youngest cub we’ve ever had,” said Tom Millham, secretary/treasurer of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. The approximately 6 pound, twelve-week old black bear was brought to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care over the weekend after his mother was illegally shot and killed near Kernville, outside of Bakersfield. “We are the only rehabilitation facility in the state of California authorized to do bear cubs,” said Millham. A California Department of Fish and Game veterinarian in Rancho Cordova gave the cub a thorough physical on Tuesday, determining the young bear is healthy enough to be rehabilitated. With a go ahead from fish and game, the cub is now back at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, where he’ll spend most of the next year. Millham said the goal is to release the bear back into the wild within 50 miles of where he was found near the start of next year. He estimated the cub will probably weigh between 80 and 120 pounds by that point. — Adam Jensen Don’t want to share your trash? * Use a bear proof trash can. * Put trash out on the morning of trash collection, rather than the night before. * Don’t store food in vehicles. * Keep bird feeders inaccessible to bears. * Store pet food indoors. * Keep barbecues clean. Source: BEAR League, Bear Aware, California Department of Fish and Game

Bear dies after officer mistakenly shoots near Lake Tahoe

Authorities say a mother bear who was found with her three cubs in Incline Village has died after being accidentally shot by a Washoe County sheriff’s deputy. The Nevada Department of Wildlife said the adult bear, named Jasper, died Sunday morning. The Washoe County Sheriff’s office said it will review the shooting, in which a deputy intended to shoot a rubber round to scare the bear away but fired off a live round instead. “I am saddened to hear of the passing of the bear from yesterday’s incident in Incline Village involving one of our deputies,” Washoe County Sheriff Chuck Allen said in a statement. “We appreciate the efforts made by the Nevada Department of Wildlife. The sheriff’s office will thoroughly review the incident and take whatever measures are deemed appropriate.” The shooting happened Saturday morning after the bears were spotted near homes in Incline Village area in Nevada. This bear family has previously been identified as “food aggressive” and they’ve been reported multiple times in recent weeks. Officials said the cubs are old enough to be on their own. The shooting sparked outrage on social media among bear advocates and Tahoe residents who have criticized Nevada law enforcement and wildlife officers for their actions regarding bears. This past week a NDOW biologist filed a lawsuit against the Homewood-based Bear League and several individuals for defamation. Amid the outrage, the Bear League posted on Facebook Sunday regarding the passage of Jasper. In the post, the Bear League extended “heartfelt Thank You goes out to both Dr Peri Wolff and Director Tony Wasley of the Nevada Department of Wildlife for jumping in immediately and doing everything possible to save her life.” The league also said a memorial and celebration of life is being planned. In honor of Jasper’s life, the league asked everyone to “please be gentle with each other.”

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.

Men arraigned on bear killing charges

Two men were arraigned on charges of illegally possessing bear parts Tuesday after allegedly being found with bear gall bladders and claws in Eldorado National Forest earlier this year. Peter George Vitali, of Pioneer, and Arthur Martin Blake, of River Pines, pleaded not guilty in El Dorado County Superior Court in Placerville Tuesday. The men each face one felony charge and two misdemeanor charges related to illegally possessing bear parts, said California Department of Fish and Wildlife warden Mark Michilizzi. The men were arrested by California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers April 20 near the intersection of Cat Creek Road and Highway 88, about 25 miles west of Kirkwood, Michilizzi said. Officers allegedly found 20 large bear claws and three bear gall bladders in the men's possession. "At the time of their arrest, bear season was closed in California," according to a Friday statement from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Evidence developed during the investigation suggested the suspects recently killed three bears, likely a sow and two cubs. The investigation determined that the claws, liver and gall bladder were removed from the sow and only the liver and gall bladder were removed from the other two bears." Bile contained in the gall bladders is sold on the black market because some believe it has medicinal properties. The price for bear gall bladder varies, Michilizzi said. High demand allows poachers to make a quick turn around on parts taken from pears, according to the warden. "As long as that exists we're going to continue these types of cases and focus on this type of enforcement," Michilizzi said. It is a felony to sell, purchase or possesses for sale any bear part, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Nevada panel supports state’s first black bear hunt

RENO, Nev. – Despite opposition from wildlife advocates, the first black bear hunting season in Nevada history has moved a step closer to reality. Nevada Department of Wildlife staff has been directed to draft a regulation establishing a spring and fall hunt by state wildlife commissioners. Commission Chairman Scott Raine said the nine-member panel plans to take final action on the regulation at its Dec. 3-4 meeting in Reno. The tag quota and length of seasons would be set early next year. Commissioners said Nevada is the only Western state without a bear hunt, and the state’s bruin population is stable enough to allow for a limited one. “Wildlife should be wild and it (hunt) will keep bears wild,” Raine said, adding nearly all of the wildlife commission’s county advisory boards backed the action. Nevada is home to 200 to 300 bears along the eastern Sierra, with most in the Carson Range on Lake Tahoe’s east shore. There also are an unknown number of bears in the Wassuk and Sweetwater ranges to the south. Critics disputed some supporters’ contention that the hunt would reduce human-bear conflicts that often lead to bears having to be destroyed. They also questioned the safety of hunts around Lake Tahoe. “My main concern is Lake Tahoe is a bad place to have a bear hunt,” said Don Molde, a former board member of the Defenders of Wildlife and a member of the Humane Society of the United States. “It’s congested and some bystander could be injured.” Public opinion on the hunt is running “roughly 50-50” in nearly 100 e-mails submitted to the wildlife department’s website, agency spokesman Chris Healy said. Raine insisted public opinion among Nevadans was overwhelmingly in favor of the hunt. “It’s very much people from Nevada, especially those in the Carson City area, are almost unanimously for it,” he said. “We get some people from California, quite a bit, and they’re agai nst it.” Carl Lackey, a biologist with the wildlife department, has said the state’s bear population would support a small hunt. While Nevada has the lowest black bear population in the West, it has been growing at a rate of 16 percent a year, he said.

Lebec bear heading home after treatment

A young black bear is getting a second shot at life in the wild this spring, being released back into the wild after eight months of treatment at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. The "Lebec bear" was brought in from south of Bakersfield last July. The bear is the South Lake Tahoe wildlife rehabilitation center's first bear release this year and was hauled Tuesday in a bear crate from the center to near where it was captured. "He was only 13 pounds and all by himself with no mom, so he was pretty small when he came to us," said Cheryl Millham, of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. The bear came in with foxtails in his ears, two ticks on his body and a wound on one of his left legs. He spent the last eight months growing and getting rehabilitated and now tips the scales at a bit more than 65 pounds. "He was getting the right food and the right care for the right amount of time, playing with the other cubs and staying away from humans," Millham said. About 14 months old, the Lebec bear was tranquilized and given one last health inspection before he was picked up by the California Department of Fish and Game and hauled away Tuesday. "Our biologist found some really prime habitat, with some green up right now, which is very rare in this drought time, and near some water sources. So we'll take this bear down there, open the crate up and let this bear go off on his own," said Marc Kenyon, senior environmental specialist with California Department of Fish and Game. "When he gets down there he'll have essentially a second chance on life." Three other young black bears remain at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care and also are expected to be released back into the wild this spring. They include a bear from Meeks Bay, a bear from Truckee and a bear brought in from Heavenly Mountain Resort.