INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — It may take a month or more before wildlife officials can determine why a black bear died after being tranquilized last week near Lake Tahoe’s North Shore.
The 180-pound, three-year-old male bear was trapped by the Nevada Department of Wildlife the morning of June 12 at Sand Harbor State Park after “showing a lack of fear of humans,” said Teresa Moiola, conservation education chief with NDOW.
A game warden then tranquilized the bear, with plans to remove it from the location, Moiola said. However, the bruin soon showed signs of distress and eventually died.
“Like any anesthesia process, there are no guarantees and there is always the potential for issues,” Moiola said Wednesday.
The department’s veterinarian performed a necropsy and determined high temperatures that day may have led to the distress, she said.
“I don’t think we can definitively say it was over-tranquilized, but we can definitely say it had a reaction,” Moiola said.
The department was scheduled to send tissue samples to a laboratory on Wednesday to learn if the bear had any underlying diseases. Results could take more than a month, Moiola said.
NDOW has tranquilized roughly 500 black bears since the late 1990s, Moiola said, with fewer than 10 dying.
One of those was when a small male yearling bear died in March at Tahoe, according to media reports. In that case, the bear was severely underweight and health problems were believed to be connected, department spokesman Chris Healy told the Reno Gazette-Journal last week.
The issue is a sensitive one for many residents at Lake Tahoe, as well as a pair of pro-wildlife groups — the Homewood, Calif.-based BEAR League, and the Facebook group Lake Tahoe Wall of Shame, both of which host passionate pro-bear online forums on the issue of bear management in the region.
Incline Village resident Mark E. Smith, who oversees the Wall of Shame, said the recent tranquilizer deaths are serious and should be investigated by an outside party.
“We are calling for a truly independent investigation and a ban on NDoW personnel using tranquilizers until that investigation is completed and the findings reviewed by the public,” Smith said. “This is not an unreasonable demand in the face of either incompetence or intentional wrongful acts.”