Authorities: Cubs have small chance after mom is shot

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The odds are against the survival of two Lake Tahoe bear cubs that were orphaned when a deputy loaded the wrong kind of bullet into his weapon and shot the mother after the animal broke into a garage cluttered with garbage, authorities said Tuesday.

The killing of the bear has sparked outrage, with most of it levied against the resident responsible for the trash.

Chuck Arnold, manager of the trailer park where the bears were foraging said he has started eviction proceedings against the residents. In a post on the online publication's website, he said a "petition is being signed by several residents to make sure they know they are not welcome in our community."

"They do not deserve to live in Lake Tahoe and this in the general consensus of our neighborhood," he wrote.

Other angry postings on Facebook questioned the intelligence of the deputy, but Arnold said it was a tragic accident involving a bear that lived in the area for at least a decade and was never aggressive or the cause of property damage.

"I'm sure they got a frantic call from someone. Mistakes happen," he told The Associated Press. "The deputies, they were the last link in a long chain of events started by someone else."

Arnold said the family of five had more than a month's worth of garbage in the garage. "With the cooler weather, there was not that strong of an odor but a bear could have smelled it 10 miles away," he said.

The Douglas County sheriff's office said the unidentified deputy accidentally shot the black bear with a live round rather than a rubber bullet Friday night. The wounded bear then had to be destroyed.

When deputies arrived, the cubs scurried off and ran up a tree. They have not been seen since. "The odds are against these animals," said Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy.

Sheriff's Sgt. Jim Halsey said in a statement that deputies fired rubber wildlife control rounds at the larger bear but there was no effect.

One deputy then fired what he believed was another rubber bullet, but it was a rifle slug similar in size and shape to the wildlife control round.

Halsey said deputies typically load two rubber bullets followed by two rifled slug rounds when loading weapons for wildlife control. The two slugs are loaded in case a bear charges a deputy rather than run away after being struck by the rubber rounds.

"In this incident, in the darkness, the deputy incorrectly stacked his rounds by mistake, thereby making the second round fired out of the shotgun a rifled slug rather than a rubber-projectile wildlife control round," Halsey said. He called the incident unfortunate and said the sheriff's office was investigating.

After the mother was killed, Healy said wildlife experts set a trap to capture the two cubs. Instead, they trapped another female bear.

The cubs likely would have been born late last winter. At their age of about 9 months in the wild, they would have to spend this winter hibernating with their mother before being kicked out next year to fend for themselves.

"This would be the last lesson the mother would be teaching the cubs - how to survive the winter," Healy said. "Mom won't be there to do that."

If the cubs are found and healthy, Healy said the agency would work with rescue groups to try to rehabilitate them, possibly creating an artificial den in the backcountry where they could hibernate.

"It's very sad," Arnold said. "It's a community here and bears are just part of the environment."


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