Human safety biggest concern for west Carson City resident with ‘bear problem’ |

Human safety biggest concern for west Carson City resident with ‘bear problem’

Rhonda Costa-Landers
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal The seventh bear in six days sits in a Nevada Department of Wildlife trap in the backyard of the Hensmans' Washington Street home on Thursday.

Since Oct. 19, the Nevada Department of Wildlife has trapped six bears in Gordon Hensman’s backyard in west Carson City. A seventh was trapped down the street.

Hensman is not feeding the bears, but said apparently a neighbor was.

“He’s (the neighbor) putting food out and watching the bears come eat,” Hensman said.

“This is number six,” Hensman said Thursday, referring to the bear in a trap in his backyard. “At about 3:30 one morning, I heard a noise and ran downstairs. I was in one doorway and a bear was in another.

“I ran to get a gun and the bear ran away.”

The neighbor, Woody Bennett, said about eight weeks ago he noticed bear activity on his property, mostly at night, and didn’t think a lot of it. He said at the time he had been putting bird seed out in feeders.

“About a week or two after that, I noticed bears on the property during the day and thought, ‘Oh, that’s kinda cute,'” Bennett said. “Only they weren’t leaving or they came back the next day.

“I moved to the Sierra from California, and I’m not horrified there’s wildlife around here. It doesn’t bother me they’re on my property.”

Thad Heater, a NDOW wildlife biologist, said there is no city, county or state ordinance at this time prohibiting the feeding of bears or any other wildlife in Nevada, though there has been recent discussion.

“We’ve had wildlife every day here,” Hensman said. “But for the last week, it’s been only bears. We’ve seen seven different bears in the last week.

“Two game wardens have told (Bennett) to stop feeding the bears,” Hensman said. “I’ve got a couple of neighbors who are in their 80s who are afraid to go out after dark.”

Rob Buonamici, chief game warden of Nevada, said if there was a state law or city ordinance it would give them the means to deal with these circumstances.

“These situations are rare,” Buonamici said. “These are usually people with good intentions, but it creates notably an artificial environment for the wildlife and is putting the public in danger. It does impact our budget and detracts from us being able to deal with the normal things we do.”

Bennett said he was not necessarily feeding the bears, but other animals.

“I was also putting out deer food and buckets of water so the deer wouldn’t head into town,” Bennett said. “But since being talked to by the game warden, I have stopped feeding the wildlife. Which is absolutely legal to do.

“And I’m absolutely aware of the signs and statements of don’t feed the bears. They were mainly drinking water, about 20 gallons a day. Whether it’s moral or ethical, we’re starving our wildlife, and I’m not going to debate it.

“I did stop feeding the bears. The bears stayed away during the day and trash cans were again flipped over. But I never had any break-ins. They never undid our car, smashed a window or screens, they just moved on.”

Heater said for those who are tempted to feed wildlife – don’t.

“It creates a public-safety hazard,” Heater said. “We’ve had seven bears captured in this neighborhood. They’re tagged and tattooed for future reference. If they become a serious problem they become a public safety concern. If they are a nuisance, the bear will be destroyed.

“A fed bear eventually is a dead bear.”

Bennett said not one neighbor has approached him about their concerns.

“Not at all,” he said. “I have never had any discourse, positive or negative, with my neighbors. If they had come to me and said ‘stop feeding the bears because it was perceived as dangerous,’ I would have said, ‘I agree and won’t do it any more.’

“But I get the feeling someone is using their political clout. And I’m not oblivious to the fact all communities have nepotism and political intrigue, but this is such a nonissue.

“I’m trying to conform to what I don’t believe or support out of fear of being sued. Yeah, I’m gonna back down. I’ve agreed to do what they demand of me, although not illegal.

“All of this could have been avoided had the neighbor come and talked to me. This has escalated to an egregious level, and almost arrogant manner in which it was put forward.

“I have taken away the bird seed and there are still bears, so there’s something wrong with the policy or the people carrying it out.”

Officials are warning residents to be extra cautious.

“People should be vigilant in any community,” Heater advised. “It’s been such a dry year, just be aware.”

• Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at or 881-1223.