Depicting a mother black bear followed by a young cub, Nevada's first bear-crossing signs were erected Wednesday along U.S. Highway 50 near Spooner Summit.
A wildlife preservation group that pushed for the signs says the design is a fitting tribute to a sow and two cubs that were hit by cars and killed near that location last October.
"Not only is it a fitting memorial to the mother and her cubs, it makes it obvious there are bears here. People come up here and don't know that," said Ann Bryant, a founding member of the Lake Tahoe-based Bear Preservation League. "And it recognizes the bears' value and their worth."
On Halloween night, a mother bear was hit and killed on U.S. Highway 50 near the intersection with State Route 28. Nevada Division of Wildlife officials responded but, because it was dark, couldn't do anything about her two cubs, which had treed themselves and were screaming.
Both cubs were dead within hours, also hit by cars.
Gail Turle, a resident of the nearby neighborhood of Glenbrook and a member of the Bear Preservation League, was distraught over the deaths and contacted the Nevada Department of Transportation about the possibility of putting up warning signs.
After verifying with state wildlife authorities that the highway was known to be a common crossing point for bears and other wild animals moving to higher elevations, NDOT agreed.
Because no such signs existed in the state and a new design would have to be created, and because of snowy winter weather, this week was the earliest NDOT could erect them. Black bears at Tahoe now are waking from their quasi-hibernation and will be a common sight at Tahoe during the spring and summer.
NDOT installed four signs around the well-used intersection that connects North Shore, South Shore and Carson City.
"We especially like to encourage partnership," said Felicia Archer, spokeswoman for NDOT. "When we see community support for something, we're willing to help."
Archer said more bear signs could be erected in Nevada if the street locations are proven crossing places.
"I don't know if we have any plans, but when it's justified we'll consider it," she said.
Turle said she was delighted the signs are up and appreciated the efforts made by NDOT.
"The first time I called them they were totally helpful," she said. "They gave me immediate feedback and kept me informed. This is wonderful. It really is."
The Bear Preservation League formed in August 1998 after California authorities on the West Shore killed a mother bear and her cub, orphaning another cub which was later hit by a car.
The group, with more than 100 members, now has volunteers who respond to bear complaints basinwide, educating residents about how to coexist with the animals.