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Bear leads authorities on merry chase

by Linda Hiller, staff writer

Another black bear found its way into Carl Lackey’s bear trap this week after being chased for two hours through Chichester Estates, a Gardnerville housing development.

“We got a call between 4 and 5 p.m. from Douglas County that there was a bear in Chichester,” said Lackey, a Nevada Division of Wildlife biologist. “We’d been out capturing a bear at Walker Lake, and so we came back here. (The Chichester bear) was in a location that if we’d have left him alone, it probably would have dispersed, but there were so many people there that we decided to capture it.”

The area Lackey refers to is in the east part of the Carson Valley, around Waterloo Lane and Orchard Road. Radio-collared bears come through that part of the Valley frequently, although residents are rarely aware of them, he said.

The young, male black bear was pursued by Lackey, members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Nevada Highway Patrol, not to mention several civilians. It panicked and ran from yard to yard around the area for nearly two hours before being tranquilized by Lackey and put into a bear trap for safe keeping. No one was injured in the chase.

“This bear was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. With all the people in pursuit, I think we probably made him run more than he would have and we finally tired him out,” Lackey said. “It was great that NHP and DCSO helped with this capture. Douglas County has supplied all their deputies with bear deterrent rounds, and we’re getting good cooperation from Carson City and Washoe County also.”

Lackey said the American black bear was around 3 years old and weighed around 150 pounds. He was a first-time capture and likely came from the Pine Nut area.

“He’s in a trap awaiting release first thing tomorrow morning, probably back into the Pine Nuts,” Lackey said Tuesday from Mason Valley, where he was on the way to release the Walker Lake bear, a young female.

“We’ve had a lot of bears out of the Pine Nuts this year. People keep saying we’re releasing nuisance bears there and I want to stress – again – that we’re not. We release bears in the vicinity of where we find them.”

Lackey said the aversion therapy the wildlife personnel perform on these captured bears is largely successful. During their release, the bears are shot with rubber bullets, sprayed with pepper spray, yelled at and chased by dogs – all aimed at making them dislike being around people.

“That bear we captured on the Settelmeyer Ranch (by the fish hatchery) is now in the Carson Range above Genoa,” he said. “Another bear that we recently caught at City of Refuge was released nearby with the aversion therapy, and he’s now on top of the Pine Nuts.”

Lackey said development in native bear habitat is one of the biggest culprits in the increased bear-human encounters.

“You should see the Pine Nuts from the air – there are houses everywhere,” he said. “Also, from the ages and sex of most of these bears, we know they are expanding their range.”

Lackey said the dry winter, spring and summer might have cut down the natural food – berries, roots and such – for these errant bears, driving them out of their normal range to try and find the 15,000 to 20,000 calories per day they need to get ready for hibernation.

Lackey said if you encounter a bear in your neighborhood, don’t run, remain facing the animal and back to somewhere safe. Most of the time, the bear will run away first.

“Also, don’t feed or approach the bear,” he said. “People have to keep their garbage secure. This bear had been into some garbage cans. They’re omnivores – they’ll eat anything.”

Lackey said the cooperation between DCSO, NHP and NDOW was very helpful in safely capturing the Chichester bear.

“The other agencies were great,” he said. “We really worked together well on that one and I appreciate it very much.”