INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Nevada’s inaugural BEAR Logic Month wasn’t even a day old before the Sierra animals quickly illustrated why a special month to promote awareness is necessary, state officials said.
Two black bears were captured Tuesday morning by the Nevada Department of Wildlife in separate traps in Incline Village and were scheduled to be released in the mountains above Lake Tahoe Wednesday morning.
A third bear wasn’t as fortunate, as it was hit and killed by a car near Spooner Summit early Tuesday morning.
According to NDOW, 170 black bears have been killed by cars in Nevada since 1997.
The two bears in Incline were captured near homes in culvert bear traps. Both animals were displaying nuisance behavior related to access to human garbage, according to the wildlife department.
One of the female bears was a nine-year-old that was first caught in the Lake Tahoe Basin in 2009. The other was a yearling female that had never been captured before by NDOW.
“We will use aversion conditioning on these bears when we release them on Wednesday morning,” NDOW black bear biologist Carl Lackey said in a statement. “The Karelian bear dogs and some well placed rubber buckshot fired from a shotgun will hopefully put a scare into these bears and keep them away from humans in the future.”
The summer of 2014 is expected to be a busy one for nuisance bear activity in Nevada. The ongoing drought has dried up many natural food sources, and bruins are expected to greatly expand their search for food in urban interface areas where human sources of garbage can often be found to supplement the animals’ diets.
Lackey describes aversive conditioning like this: “Once we have the bear in the trap, and right as we release it, we shoot rubber bullets at it and chase it with Karelian bear dogs, using all of the tools available to us in our aversion conditioning program. The goal is to make the bear uncomfortable and make it think twice before coming back to civilization.”
On-site releases and aversion conditioning gives NDOW a chance to “save” the bear from becoming a dangerous animal in the future, he said.
“When people who need help call us first, it gives us the chance to intervene right at the time when the bear first gets into trouble, when that happens we have a chance to alter its behavior,” Lackey said.
NDOW has saved nearly 400 bears using aversive conditioning treatment since the technique was first employed in the late 1990s.
“The key to saving these bears is that we receive a phone call from the public right when the bear shows up in a neighborhood,” said Lackey. “When we’re allowed to do our job from the beginning, without interference from outside groups, we can save most bears.”
This week, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval declared July as BEAR Logic Month. “BEAR” stands for Bear Education, Aversion and Research.
One of the month’s messages is that, despite NDOW’s labeling of some bears as “nuisance” animals, the people in Nevada and Lake Tahoe are the real problem, considering 95 percent of all human-bear conflicts are associated with trash.
“When people are irresponsible with their food and garbage, bears can wind up in trouble,” according to an NDOW news release. “Bears naturally fear humans, but if they have access to human food sources, they may become addicted, lose their natural fear of humans, and even become aggressive.”
Residents can learn more about NDOW and BEAR Logic Month at www.ndow.org/Bear.
Persons needing to report nuisance bear activity can call the NDOW’s Bear Hotline at 775-688-BEAR (2327).
Residents at Lake Tahoe also can call the nonprofit BEAR League at 530-525-PAWS (7297). The group of volunteers will coach residents on bear aversion techniques and will come out to your property in some instances to help you shoo away an animal, in an effort to not bring traps into the equation. Learn more at www.savebears.org.