Bears found in Carson City to be released unharmed
October 5, 2002
It was a gallant attempt, but a box of fresh doughnuts was not enough to lure a mother bear and her two cubs from a poplar tree near the corner of Mountain Street and Winnie Lane Friday morning.
Injuries can be minimized by tranquilizing the animals on the ground and a nearby fence posed a very real hazard, so officials from the Nevada Department of Wildlife played a waiting game. They waited for the right moment to tranquilize the bears.
Traffic, noise and confusion swirled around them as the cubs peered curiously from behind the tree at onlookers. Their mother cast a wary eye.
The right moment came only after Carson City Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Putzer fired a volley of harmless, but noisy, shots into the tree over the bear’s heads driving them to the ground.
The bears gave chase before the tranquilizers took effect, but all are well and doing fine. The 7-year-old mother bear and her cubs, one male and one female, will be released somewhere in the Sierra outside Carson City today after a stern lesson from wildlife officials.
“We use aversion conditioning to modify the bears’ behavior so they’ll avoid humans,” said Carl Lackey, wildlife biologist with the Nevada Division of Forestry. “We hit them with rubber buckshot, use cracker shells to make noise, and send a Karelian bear dog to chase them.”
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A Finnish breed, these dogs are used in Europe. The bears are not harmed.
Officials hope the bears won’t return, but such has not been the case in the past, according to Lackey. He said bears are intelligent and their behavior, like scouring trash cans for food, is learned: passed down from mother to cub.
“If these cubs survive, they will remember and they’ll be back,” he said. “A trash can means an easy meal and they’ll forego natural vegetation, for this.”
He said the bear population locally has remained stable, but bears are broadening their range to include urban areas.
“The problem started increasing during the drought of the late 1980s,” Lackey said. “The supply of natural foods was low and the bears began to realize how easy it was, to get into trash cans.”
Resident Jim Campbell said the trio ate a large barrel of apples in his back yard in the 800 block of West Winnie Lane some time last night. The bears were found treed on his property.
“I cleaned those apples from the back yard of a rental yesterday. They weren’t any good. I was going to haul them off today, but the bears ate every one,” he said. “Then, they got the finch seed out of the bird feeder.”
Friday’s trio brings the total to four bears captured in the same neighborhood in just over 24 hours. The first bear, a female, was captured near Carson-Tahoe Hospital early Thursday. She was released into the wild unharmed Friday morning.
State wildlife spokesman Chris Healy said these bears are first-time “offenders,” a fact that points to a lack of natural feed in the mountains. Bears have ravenous appetites this time of year, consuming about 30,000 calories daily before hibernation, which starts some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
He said seven bears have been killed by cars in Northern Nevada this year, indicating that the bear population is traveling, probably looking for food in preparation for winter sleep.
Between 350 and 400 bears live in the area, spread along the Sierra front from Verdi to Walker River, Healy said.