Bear sighted in the Virginia City Highlands
June 5, 2007
Patrick and Cynthia Kennedy are used to seeing wildlife around their Virginia City Highlands home.
They’ve seen lots of deer, golden eagles, nighthawks and even a porcupine. They’ve seen a mountain lion near the entrance to the Highlands and a bobcat was killed on the highway near their home, so they know those critters are about.
They’ve never seen a bear though, until Monday night.
Cynthia Kennedy said the couple heard something around 11 p.m. getting into their trash cans, one of which contained some food scraps. Her husband looked out and saw the bear, which he estimated as near-adult, and about 200 pounds.
“He looked out the window and saw a face that he thought at first was a chow dog,” Cynthia Kennedy said. “He said, ‘Oh my God, it’s a bear,’ and then it was gone.”
She said the bear ran as soon as he saw her husband in the window and the deck lights went on.
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Kennedy said she’d never heard of a bear in the Virginia City Highlands in the 20 years they have lived in the area, and thought the animals wouldn’t cross Highway 395.
But Chris Healy, public information officer for the Nevada Division of Wildlife, said they could easily be around there.
“(The Highlands) is on the edge of bear territory,” he said. “We know of areas where they usually cross (395). We oftentimes have bears getting hit by traffic in that Pleasant Valley area.”
Healy said this time of year is when yearling bears are roaming.
“They spent their first winter in the den with mom, then mom emerges and kicks them out, and they’re searching for their own place,” he said. “Up in the Lake Tahoe Basin their home ranges aren’t very large, but farther east they have a wide ranging area.”
Healy said folks in residential areas should call their county sheriff if they are concerned about a bear. The sheriff’s office will contact the Division of Wildlife, which will decide what, if anything, should be done. Most often, Healy said, the division leaves bears alone unless they are involved in major property damage or pose a risk to people.
He said bears are afraid of people, but people are going to see a lot more bears in areas they didn’t before.
“Because it has been a dry year and their natural food has not developed yet, or won’t for awhile, bears will be more of a challenge,” he said. “This time of year they’re eating grasses, waiting for berries and nuts. That’s why their home range is so big. Males don’t want to be close to each other. A big male would kill the yearling.”
The most important thing, he said, is to keep garbage indoors until pickup day and don’t leave pet food outside.
“Bird feeders, too, bears have raided bird feeders,” he said. “People need to know when they are living in this wild area what they set out attracts birds and what eats the birds.
Kennedy said she thinks the bear will be back because the Highlands area doesn’t have much in the way of natural food sources for bears.
“I’m sure he’ll be back because there aren’t that many houses around here,” she said. “I don’t know what he eats around here, unless he found a dead deer or a dead horse.”
She plans to keep her garbage inside, and keep an eye out for the bear.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111 ext. 351.