Alyson Andreasen, 26, was sipping coffee early Wednesday morning while she and Nevada Department of Wildlife biologist Carl Lackey watched two bear cubs up a nearby pine tree.
Andreasen graduated with a master's in biology from Colorado State University two months ago, where she did her master's thesis on urban bear problems. She grew up in Carson City and decided to return to the area and is now working with Lackey.
"Alyson is a volunteer biologist, helping us out, getting some experience," said Lackey.
Lackey met Andreasen about a year and a half ago at an international bear conference.
The cubs weren't budging, though their mother and sister lay tranquilized beneath the tree.
"Once they get down on her, they'll stay there," said Lackey, a biologist with Nevada Wildlife for the past 10 years. "They should come down in 10 or 15 minutes."
The process of trapping and collaring the family of four started two hours earlier when Lackey received a call from a Stateline resident who lives near where Lackey parked a bear trap six days before, at the end of a court off Kingsbury Grade.
Lackey learned of the mother black bear and her three cubs last week after they were spotted getting into a trash can. He wanted to trap the mother to put a collar on her with a global positioning system.
The mother was already tagged, No. 100, and her three cubs, also tagged, were a male and two females, Nos. 17-19.
No. 17, a female cub, had been caught in the trap since about 5:10 a.m., according to resident Ramona DiDomenico who called.
"There was quite a ruckus," she said. "(The bears) were really trying to get this bear out."
DiDomenico, who had been watching the bears since before the cub was trapped, said the bears are regulars in her neighborhood.
Lackey said he had previously collared another female adult black bear, but wanted to put a collar on this one so he could track both of their movements throughout the region.
"The bear problem is changing all the time," he said. "We're seeing a lot more females with cubs than big males. That's what we're looking into now. Why are there no males now - is it because of bear proofing, or what?"
When the biologists arrived about 7:30 a.m., the trapped bear cub was crying loudly and banging on the sides of the metal trap, and the mother and cubs were lingering nearby in the bushes.
Andreasen and Lackey unloaded Striker, the 4-year-old Karnelian bear dog, and Striker's 7-month-old son, Jazz, who is in training. They loaded a modified 22-caliber rifle with tranquilizing darts and waited, not too long, for the mother to return. Lackey shot at the bear and she ran a short way, cubs at her side, up the side of the mountain before she laid down. Her soft moans got quieter until they stopped.
After tranquilizing the trapped cub, Andreasen and Lackey found the mother bear. They dragged her up the steep hillside under the tree that both cubs were hiding in, and carried the tranquilized cub there too.
Andreasen brought up a bucket of doughnuts to further coax the babies down.
All four bears were tranquilized by about 10 a.m. and were brought to the truck. Lackey and Andreasen carried the cubs, and resident Michael Zanabili assisted the two in dragging the mother bear on a tarp. Lackey estimated her weight at about 150-200 pounds.
She is just one of about 19 new bears Lackey has dealt with this year, 35-36 in all.
The mother bear was loaded into the trap, which is on a trailer, connected to the back of the truck. The three tranquilized cubs were placed with the dogs in the back of the truck inside a camper shell.
The four bears were headed over Kingsbury Grade to Carson Valley where Lackey's father has a barn that Lackey does his tagging and collaring in.
"We keep them until the tranquilizers wear off," he said. "We make sure they're all right."
The family of four bears will most likely be released at the top of Kingsbury Grade, Lackey said.
-- Contact reporter Jo Rafferty at email@example.com or 782-5121, ext. 213.