Restless bear to be relocated |

Restless bear to be relocated

Andy Bourelle

With the relatively mild weather Lake Tahoe has received this winter, bear activity is likely higher than normal, according to wildlife officials.

“Once they go into hibernation, they don’t necessarily sleep until emergence,” said Pat Shanley, forest wildlife biologist of the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “This time of year, the way the season has been, there’s a good chance that (some bears) haven’t gone into a true, deep hibernation.”

That theory can be illustrated by a young bear that was captured Thursday by the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

A small, 2-year-old cub was captured in the Kingsbury area, according to Carl Lackey, wildlife biologist for the department.

“It was kind of roaming around in the area for about a month, not causing any major problems but not in a safe area either,” Lackey said. “It tried to sleep in a doghouse; it tried to hibernate under someone’s porch.”

Lackey said he intended to release it in a forest area south of Gardnerville either Thursday afternoon or today. The area would provide better habitat for the bear – away from humans.

In releasing him, the Department of Wildlife plans to spray the bear with pepper spray and shoot him with rubber bullets. The aversion technique is supposed to re-emphasize to the bear that it should stay away from humans.

“He wasn’t really causing any problems, but he showed no fear of humans. It would be better if he would just learn to stay away from humans,” Lackey said.

Cheryl Millham, executive director of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, said she has received several reports of bear sightings

Shanley said bears typically hibernate on northern or northeastern slopes, which are more shaded and have a larger buildup of snow. In those conditions, bears may not be aroused by temperature fluctuations.

However, bears can hibernate in various locations, many of which don’t provide that much shelter. Bears may dig holes underneath huge rocks on a hillside; they may sleep in a large, rotten, hollowed-out tree. Some bears just curl up next to large trees and let snow cover them.

While a bear’s metabolic rate slows down in the winter, Shanley said, it still feeds off of its storage of body fat. Depending on how foraging went in the fall, bears can emerge from hibernation in the spring very healthy or some may even perish during the winter.

Whether in the winter or summer, officials agree Lake Tahoe residents and visitors should not give bears any reason to visit their neighborhoods.

“There needs to be some kind of measure to keep bears from getting accustomed to people,” Shanley said. “Once they get accustomed, it’s a downhill road.”

People should never feed bears.

“Don’t feed them by any means,” Lackey said. “There are still people up there feeding bears. That’s the most ridiculous thing you can do.”

The Nevada Department of Wildlife uses its aversion technique on bears that have the potential of creating problems in residential areas. The agency rarely euthanizes bears, only when the deterrent method has repeatedly failed to work on the bear.

In November 1998, however, the agency killed a bear in the Kingsbury area after its deterrent technique had failed twice. The bear reportedly had several cubs, which the Nevada Department of Wildlife said were at least 2 years old.

Rita McEwing, a South Shore resident who was upset at the time of the killing, said she believed the bear captured Thursday had been one of the cubs. Lackey said he had no way of knowing whether that was true.

McEwing said she was afraid the agency would kill the cub, but she acknowledged it would likely be better for the bear if it was released into a forest area away from people.

“If that is in fact what he does, it is probably better,” she said.

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