CAVE ROCK - Two Douglas County sheriff's deputies fired 16 rounds from assault rifles to kill a young bear that charged them after it broke through a screen door of a Cave Rock home in search of food.
Deputies drove out to 1331 Winding Way around 6 Monday night in response to a 911 call from a Reno woman who said she was trapped inside with a bear.
The bear, which weighed about 150 pounds and was about a year-and-a-half old, climbed a long set of stairs that lead to a second-story deck where it found the screen door and broke through it to get to a bunch of bananas on the kitchen counter.
"It is my boyfriend's house. I was working downstairs and heard noises upstairs," said Maria Cooper, 32. "I thought it was my boyfriend so I ran upstairs and to my surprise it was a bear."
Cooper said she came about 3 feet from the bear before she spotted it in the kitchen.
"It was like a flash," Cooper said. "He was scared. I was scared. I ran downstairs and called 911."
At some point, the bear opened the refrigerator. But when deputies arrived at the home, they looked through a window in the front door and saw the bear eating the fruit in the living room. Cooper was downstairs behind a bedroom door.
Deputies decided to enter the home after the bear appeared to be headed downstairs. The broken screen door on the back deck was the only way in. As they headed up the stairs, each armed with an assault rifle, the sheriff's radio dispatcher informed them that Cooper had screamed and dropped the phone.
Cooper said she doesn't remember screaming or dropping the phone, but she said she was frightened when she heard the succession of shots fired.
"They got to the top of the stairwell, which opened up to a deck, and were about 15 feet from the patio door when the bear came out," said Douglas County sheriff's Sgt. Tom Mezzetta. "I'm not sure what caused the bear to exit. But the officers were fearful for their safety and the bear began to advance on them and they had nowhere to go."
One of the deputies fired one shot from an AR-15 rifle. It struck the bear on its left side. The bear retreated to the edge of the deck before it turned and charged. One deputy fired 7 bullets from the semi-automatic rifle; the other officer discharged 8 bullets. The bear died six feet from the deputies.
"We didn't find anything to the contrary to indicate that any of the rounds missed," Mazzetta said. "No autopsy was performed on the bear."
Lois Eley lives at 1332 Winding Way, several hundred yards below the deck where the shooting occurred.
"I was watching," Eley said. "I wish I had a camera. I saw something moving up there. Two officers came in and the bear was going after them. If I were those deputies I would have done the same thing."
Cooper on Tuesday afternoon said the experience with the bear has left her sad.
"It was such a beautiful animal," she said. "There was no need to sacrifice it. That's not going to fix the problem. I'm very, very sad about it. This is the season they are coming out and we are in their territory."
A Nevada Department of Wildlife game warden took the dead bear away in his pickup. The warden confirmed that the bear had been identified as a troublemaker several months ago. It was trapped, tagged and released in the Kingsbury area two months ago.
- Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org