Bears a Halloween threat? |

Bears a Halloween threat?

Staff and wire reports

Douglas County officials are warning local trick-or-treaters to be very wary if they see another Halloween goodie-hunter that looks like a bear. It could be the real thing.

However, at least one bear advocate doesn’t see much reason to worry.

Bear sightings have more than quadrupled this summer after a dry winter sent the animals teeming out of the woods and into populated areas in search of water and food. Some 80 have been trapped in an area stretching from Reno to south Douglas County and west to Lake Tahoe, of which eight have been euthanized, according to the state Department of Wildlife.

Marcy De Rose, who saw a bear at a Douglas County park last week, said she is concerned that her neighborhood near Douglas High School — popular with trick-or-treaters — may be a dangerous lure to the brazen bears. “I usually decorate, but I’m not going to this year,” she said. “I’m not going to encourage kids to come here because the smell of candy will attract the bear.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” said Ann Bryant, executive director of the BEAR League, a group promoting peaceful coexistence between bears and humans. Black bears do not confront people, and certainly not groups of people, Bryant said. No human deaths caused by a black bear have been reported in California or Nevada.

Bryant’s only concern would be a lone small child walking quietly with a full bag of candy.

“Don’t let any children go out by themselves,” Bryant said.

Ultimately, though, Bryant doesn’t feel there’s any reason to stray from the trick-or-treating that people have been doing for decades. “What angers me about this is that it promotes fear,” Bryant said.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Mezzetta cautioned that bears may be attracted by the scent of a child’s trick-or-treat bag and offered some advice. “If confronted by a bear, stay with others in a group. Do not try to run away,” he said. “You can’t outrun a bear and it may provoke a pursuit. Slowly back away, heading for shelter. Talk calmly amongst yourselves so that the bear identifies you as human.”

Mezzetta said it may be necessary to drop the trick-or-treat bag during a retreat. “But do not throw it at the bear as it may be mistaken as an act of aggression,” he said. “Give the bear a wide berth as you seek shelter.”

— Tribune staff writer Charles Sizemore and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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