Tom Lotshaw

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May 6, 2014
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"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.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated May 9, 2014 11:34AM Published May 12, 2014 09:41AM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.