Bears have quiet summer at Tahoe |

Bears have quiet summer at Tahoe

Greyson Howard / Sierra Sun

Published Caption: Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune

One bear was found dead with its gall bladder removed. A few cubs were rescued – including Lil’ Smokey, a 6-month-old black bear with burnt paws.

But overall, the summer of 2008 was a quiet one for bears in the Truckee-Tahoe region.

“It was actually about one-third as busy as last year,” said Ann Bryant, executive director of the BEAR League, a group that promotes peaceful coexistence between bears and humans.

In comparison, Bryant said this year, 12 bears were killed by cars vs. last season’s 78, and the BEAR League’s call volume went from 100 to 200 calls per day to around 50.

“I think we had a wonderful berry crop this year, so they didn’t have to come into town for food,” Bryant said.

Lil’ Smokey, the cub rescued from a fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest earlier in the summer, is recovering from second- and third-degree burns on its paws at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, Bryant said.

Recommended Stories For You

“They took the last bootie off 1 1/2 weeks ago,” she said. “He will be releasable into the wild.”

Along with six other rescued cubs, Lil’ Smokey could be released this winter into dens set up for them to hibernate the rest of the winter and wake up as wild bears in the spring, Bryant said.

The investigation continues into the bear found dead along Highway 89 South in August with its gall bladder removed, said Mark Lucero, patrol captain with the California Department of Fish and Game.

Taking a bear’s gall bladder is illegal. The organ can be sold on the black market for as much as $5,000. A surgical glove was found alongside the carcass.

“The glove is still at the Department of Justice for fingerprints,” Lucero said.

He said it appears the bear was hit by a car accidentally, and whoever removed the organ happened upon it afterward.

“My theory is with last year’s 78 road kills somebody got it in their mind that that was 78 gall bladders and bought themselves a police scanner,” Bryant said. “The BEAR League has received some really promising tips.”