An older female bear, estimated to be 12-15 years old, was captured inside a trash bin in Genoa on Thursday morning.
The bear had never been encountered by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, spokesman Chris Healy said. The bear had a blonde muzzle and black fur, weighing about 200 pounds.
The bear was tranquilized and removed from the bin. Healy said there was no outward sign that the bear had been injured.
“The bear will sleep off the tranquilizer, be evaluated in the morning and, if it is like most bears we handle, will be released sometime Friday,” Healy said Thursday.
Healy said that bears like the one found in Genoa and those taken in the bear hunt that have not been contacted by the state before are resulting in wildlife biologists revising their estimates of the number of bears in Nevada.
“Our ability to predict the population has improved by our ongoing research projects and data gathered from the hunt,” he said. “The key component in the data from the hunt is the fact that out of 25 bears taken in the first two years of the hunt, only one had ever been ear tagged. Each time a ‘never-handled-before’ bear is plugged into the population model, we become more and more confident in estimating population numbers.”
He said that estimates on the number of bears in Nevada of 350-450 back in 2010, may be low given the new information.
Bears frequent the Sierra, and are attracted by garbage and unpicked fruit all along the base of the mountains in western Carson Valley and at Lake Tahoe.
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 biologist Carl 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.
The moon was full or nearly full for 10 days from Sept. 15 through the 24th. “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.”
Douglas County is the only place outside the Lake Tahoe Basin to require bear-proof containers for residents whose garbage has been raided by bears twice in a given period.