Nevada’s Bear Logic Month wasn’t a day old before the bears quickly illustrated why the a special month to promote bear awareness is necessary, state officials said.
Two black bears were captured this morning by the Nevada Department of Wildlife in separate traps in Incline Village and will be released in the mountains above Lake Tahoe on Wednesday morning. A third bear was hit and killed by a car near Spooner Summit early Tuesday morning. Since 1997, 170 black bears have been killed by cars in Nevada.
The two bears at Incline Village were both captured near homes in culvert bear traps. Both animals were displaying nuisance behavior related to access to human garbage. One of the female bears was a nine year old which was first caught in the Lake Tahoe Basin in 2009. The other bear caught at Incline was a yearling female which had never been captured before by NDOW.
“We will use aversion conditioning on these bears when we release them on Wednesday morning,” says NDOW black bear biologist Carl Lackey. “The Karelian bear dogs and some well placed rubber buckshot fired from a shotgun will hopefully put a scare into these bears and keep them away from humans in the future.”
The summer of 2014 is expected to be a busy one for nuisance bear activity in Nevada. The ongoing drought has dried up many natural food sources and bears are expected to greatly expand their search for food in urban interface areas where human sources of garbage can often be found to supplement the black bear’s diet.
Black bear biologist Carl Lackey describes aversive conditioning like this:
“Once we have the bear in the trap and right as we release it, we shoot rubber bullets at it and chase it with Karelian bear dogs, using all of the tools available to us in our aversion conditioning program. The goal is to make the bear uncomfortable and make it think twice before coming back to civilization.”
Lackey stated that on-site releases and the chance to use aversion conditioning on the bear gives NDOW a chance to “save” the bear from becoming a dangerous bear in the future. “When people who need help call us first, it gives us the chance to intervene right at the time when the bear first gets into trouble, when that happens we have a chance to alter its behavior.”
NDOW has saved nearly 400 bears using aversive conditioning treatment since the technique was first employed in the late 1990s. “The key to saving these bears is that we receive a phone call from the public right when the bear shows up in a neighborhood,” said Lackey. “When we’re allowed to do our job from the beginning, without interference from outside groups, we can save most bears.”