Watching a bear capture and release was the perfect ending for Sue Kriebel’s summer vacation.
The Collegeville, Penn., resident was one of 20 people watching as a 3-year-old, 150-pound female black bear was released off Tramway Drive at the top of Kingsbury Grade on Thursday morning.
“It’s awesome. It’s been a real neat experience, and a good addition to our vacation,” Kriebel said. “We were happy to hear she wasn’t going to be put to sleep. I think it’s great they take care of them and release them, and keep track of them. They’re real gentle and humane with them.”
As wildlife biologist Carl Lackey prepared to release the bear, he explained why they are released in the same place they are found.
“We don’t relocate bears. It doesn’t work nine times out of 10,” he said. “She’s been getting into Dumpsters that people have been leaving open. We try to intervene at an early stage to teach her to do something different.”
Lackey took blood samples, tagged, sexed and aged the bear prior to her release.
He said there have been close to two dozen captures so far this year, average for the area.
“We deal with 70 to 80 bears a year. The bad year in 2007, we had 150,” he said. “We killed one bear this year in Incline Village inside the home of a 92-year-old woman.”
Lackey uses trained Karelian bear dogs to chase the bear once it is released. He also fires rubber bullets at it.
”It’s designed to give them a real bad experience,” he explained. “It teaches bears that humans are not a good thing. We’re trying to modify the bear’s behavior.”
Lackey’s two dogs, Rooster and Stryker, are a critical part of bear management.
“Not only do they help us haze the bears, but they help us in urban areas, too,” he said. “They go into the homes first, and let us know where the bear is. I use them in all aspects of conflict bear management.”
Steve Wren of Bakersfield, Calif., called the bear release educational.
“It really brings out how close everybody works and lives with bears,” he said. “And what you have to do to keep each other alive.”
Lackey cautioned residents to report any bear sightings immediately to the Department of Wildlife.
“Call us first,” he said. “If we can intervene at an early stage we have a much higher success rate at modifying bear behavior.”
As for the success rate of the female released Thursday, Lackey added, “time will tell. She’s young and not a huge garbage bear. Things will work out.”
To learn more about the Karelian bear dogs Lackey uses visit their Facebook page at NDOWBearTeam.
To report a bear sighting, call 688-BEAR (2327).