Bear activity on the rise in Carson Valley
October 2, 2013
Bear activity in Carson Valley has taken a sharp increase as hungry black bears expand their search for food.
Areas near Yerington in Lyon County, Topaz Ranch Estates and the foothills of Reno have seen increases in bear activity as well.
The bears, as usual, are targeting garbage but ripened fruit from area trees is also a strong attractant this time of the year.
"People with fruit trees are asked to pick ripened fruit from the trees and off the ground as soon as possible in order to avoid any problems with bears," says NDOW wildlife biologist Carl Lackey. "We need to keep people and property safe and these bears wild."
Areas from Verdi, the foothills of southwest Reno and Washoe Valley in Washoe County, along with Carson City and the Genoa area all have fruit trees which attract bears during the fall of the year when bears dramatically increase their search for food as they prepare for winter.
Motivated by signals from nature known as zeitgebers, the bears have spectacularly increased their daily caloric intake from 3,000 calories per day to upwards of 25,000 calories per day. This physiological wonder is known as hyperphagia.
"Hyperphagia is a period where bears eat as much as they possibly can so they can put on as much fat as possible to carry them through winter hibernation," said Lackey. "Nothing much gets in the bear's way when they are this hungry."
Armed with that big appetite and motivated by zeitgebers like decreased daily sunlight and cooler morning temperatures, the bears will search far and wide in the hunt for food. Those 25,000 calories are the human equivalent of eating about 50 cheeseburgers per day over the next three months.
"They will eat up to 20 hours per day during a full moon period as they pile on the fat," stressed Lackey. "People living in bear country should not be tempting these already hungry bears with easy access to garbage, bird feeders, bowls of pet food or ripened fruit falling from trees."
Once a nuisance bear is trapped, Lackey tags it and releases it near where it was found. He then uses aversive conditioning to keep the bear from returning.
"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 (when available), using all of the tools available to us in our aversion conditioning program," Lackey said. "The goal is to make the bear uncomfortable and make it think twice before coming back to civilization."
Areas most at risk of attracting bears by granting access to garbage and other attractants are the Tahoe Basin (especially Incline Village), west Carson City and the foothill areas of Douglas and Washoe Counties.
Nevada has had two dry winters in a row and the natural foods that the bears desire are not in abundance in the wild lands.
"Plants that create nuts and berries like manzanita, squirrel tail, snowbush, desert peach and rosehips are highly desired but not always abundant in dry years," Lackey said. "It will be a busy next three months in bear country."
Persons needing to report nuisance bear activity can call the NDOW's bear hotline telephone number at (775) 688-BEAR (2327).
For information on living with bears, visit http://www.ndow.org and click on the "Bear Logic" page.