RENO - Wildlife officials were forced on Friday to shoot a 540-pound black bear that had been killing livestock during the last two weeks in Washoe Valley, about 25 miles south of Reno. It was the first nuisance bear euthanized in the area this year.
The 9-year-old bear, which had been feeding on sheep and goats, is one of the largest recorded in the area for its age, said Chris Healy, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Black bears typically weigh closer to 300 pounds.
"That is a really big bear. That is humongous," Healy said Friday.
Bears that wander into neighborhoods or local campgrounds routinely are shot with dart guns, trapped and relocated.
"We do all we can to try to keep them alive. But once they start killing livestock or breaking into homes, that is not an option," Healy said.
"When they are killing livestock, that is one of the zero-tolerance things. If you move it, all you are doing is moving a problem to another area," he said.
Ranchers in the south end of Washoe Valley and west of U.S. Highway 395 near Bellvue Road first started reporting attacks on livestock about two weeks ago.
"All signs indicated it was a pretty good-sized bear," Healy said Friday. "It had killed some goats and today it killed three sheep."
Bear attacks on livestock are unusual "but not unheard of," he said. "This is an area where people have livestock and it has happened before."
The area bumps up against the eastern front of the Sierra Nevada about 10 miles east of the north end of Lake Tahoe.
Wildlife officials called to the scene spotted the bear before it went into a pile of brush to hide and subsequently was shot.
One other bear was euthanized earlier this year but that was because it was struck by a car and was not going to survive, Healy said.
The state averages euthanizing five to 10 nuisance bears a year. Last year, more than 50 bears were killed overall, but the majority of those were hit by cars, he said.
"Most of the time when a bear around here gets killed, it gets hit by a car," Healy said.
Earlier this week, NDOW and the California Department of Fish and Game announced a new joint effort to address problem bears in the Lake Tahoe Basin in response to last year's record number of conflicts, when wildlife officials responded to up to 1,500 calls involving 120 different bears.
California's bear population is growing and is currently estimated to be between 25,000 and 35,000. Nevada has an estimated 350 black bears, mostly concentrated in the Tahoe Basin area.