The relatively wet winter in 2015 bodes both well and ill for bear problems in western Nevada.
That moisture created a lot more food in the Sierra so the bears didn’t have to come down into west side Carson City and south Reno neighborhoods this summer. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that same moisture produced a bumper crop of fruit and vegetables in west side yards and gardens experts expect will soon draw those bears into town.
Chris Healy of the Wildlife Department said that will happen in the next few weeks as the bears enter what biologists term hyperphagia, the condition that drives them to eat upwards of 25,000 calories a day, eating for up to 20 hours each day to “put on some tonnage.”
But this spring and summer, bear problems have been few and far between.
“Last year all year we handled 114 bears,” Healy said. The year before, it was 140 bears.
“This year we only handled 49 bears as of right now.”
The reason, he said, is a wet winter greatly increases the availability of natural bear food. That includes nuts and berries like Manzanita, squirrel tail, snowbush, desert peach and rosehips. The result: for the most part, the bears stayed up in the hills all summer.
But that’s about to change, he said.
“The west side of Carson has a lot of old trees that produce fruit,” Healy said.
He said those apples, pears, plums and other foods are irresistible to the bears.
If people don’t want to wake up to bears in their yard, he said they have to remove the fruit from the trees and the ground on their property as soon as possible so the bears aren’t attracted.
The hyperphagia condition, Healy said, is caused by a combination of cooler temperatures and shorter days.
“That sends a signal to nature — plant or animal — that a change in season is coming,” he said.
He said wildlife officials know bear activity in west Carson City, the Mayberry area of Reno, Douglas County foothills and the Tahoe basin will increase because the bears will come down to the food including not only fruit trees but garbage cans and dog dishes if they are left out.
“Nothing much gets in the bear’s way when they are this hungry,” said Wildlife Department biologist Carl Lackey.
NDOW’s BEAR Hotline is 775-688-BEAR. Normal business hours are 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. The hotline is for those who are experiancing conflicts with bears after removal of all human attractants.