Bear complaints increase with population

The number of bears captured in Carson City since 1997 has been steadily increasing during the last 10 years, according to the Nevada Division of Wildlife.

Division of Wildlife Biologist Carl Lackey's recently released 2007 Bear Status Report indicated that in 1997 only five bears were captured in Nevada, compared to 153 bears captured in 2007.

"This is due in part to an increase in the human population as Nevada has been the fastest growing state in the U.S. for over 15 years and much of this has taken place in western Nevada," the report states. "This human incursion comes in two forms: Construction of homes and infrastructure within formerly pristine habitat and an increase in human recreation activities. Both examples will produce a higher number of sightings and thus an increased number of complaints."

Lackey said because of the dearth of resources in their natural habitat, bears have been forced farther into the urban areas for food and water.

"It's important to emphasize that spring is always slower. People can expect July and August to be busy, but not as busy as last year. Last year was a very unusual year," he said.

In Carson City specifically, Lackey said there were 55 bears captured last year, including one in which a mother bear and her two cubs spent the day lounging in a pine tree on Chase Drive just off Winnie Lane. The bears were eventually released.

According to Lackey's report, bear complaints increased sharply in 2007 and were the highest number ever recorded, both in total number of complaints and man-hours spent. Wildlife personnel handled 1,531 complaints compared to 350 in 2006.

"A very mild winter which left very little in the way of snowpack followed by a hot, dry spring and summer are the main reasons for the increase," the report states. "Wildlife dispatch dealt with 75 percent of all complaints by giving advice over the phone without having to forward the call to a biologist. Of the 378 calls sent to field personnel 80 percent were handled by the game biologist and the temporary biologist."

Lackey said department personnel were summoned on after-hour calls 77 times on bear complaints ranging from bears in homes to retrieving road kills.

Of the bear calls received, 110 of them were for bears not tracked by the department. Sixty-three of them were mortalities with 36 killed as a result of auto accidents, five killed for plundering livestock or agriculture and 10 being euthanized because they were breaking into homes and vehicles. Three bears were killed by poachers, the report states.

Bear Tips:

Although black bears rarely attack, they are very powerful animals and are capable of injuring or killing humans.

• Never attempt to feed or approach a bear.

Give it plenty of room to pass by and it usually will. No fatal bear attacks have been reported in Nevada, however, predatory black bear attacks seem to be increasing within their North American range.

• If a bear approaches you, don't run. Remain facing the bear, and make yourself look bigger by waving your arms and yelling. You should back away slowly, keeping the bear in sight. Make noise and show the bear it is unwelcome. If you have children in the area, pick them up or put them on your shoulders. Remember, you can't outrun a black bear. They are extremely fast running uphill, downhill or any other direction they decide to go.

• Warning signs of an attack include: a steady glare, ears laid back, smacking of the jaws and stomping of the front feet. If the bear attacks, fight back with anything available. Throwing rocks or hitting a bear with large sticks has been effective in some cases. Carry bear pepper spray and know how to use it.

• If you live in bear country, wait until the morning of pick-up before placing garbage out. Use bear-proof garbage containers available through commercial dealers. Dumpsters with lockable metal lids work well, as do fencing enclosures made of chain link fencing or 2-by-4 framing.

Spray or pour ammonia in and around garbage cans, and avoid placing aromatic food wastes, such as bacon grease or spoiled foods, in garbage cans.

• Feed pets indoors.

• Clean barbeque grills after use.

• Use electrical fencing combined with a tall, metal or wooden fence to protect orchards, fish ponds, beehives, compost piles, and livestock. Constant harassment with scare devices, loud noises or dogs will sometimes work.

Source: Nevada Department of Wildlife

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