Bear prowling in Genoa |

Bear prowling in Genoa

by Kurt Hildebrand

A bear has been raiding Genoa apple trees over the past weeks. Reports of the bear have ranged from downtown to areas north of town.

Douglas County sheriff’s deputies responded to a report at 8:30 p.m. Christmas night and chased off a brown bear.

Genoan Nancy Miluck said her son-in-law, Terry Peterson, fired a shotgun in the air to frighten off a bear from their property on Christmas night.

“The bear went up the pine tree out back,” Miluck said. “We called the police and they saw a little brown bear running up the street. People around town are finding bear scat every place.”

State wildlife biologist Carl Lackey said it is not unusual for bears to remain active as long as they have food.

“They go into hibernation generally due to lack of food,” he said. “Black bears in southern habitats don’t have to den at all. When we have a year-round source of food, they stay active all year around also.”

Genoa’s many apple orchards, some as old as a century, attract bears and deer into the populated areas.

“You can’t blame the bear,” Lackey said. “They’ve probably been hitting those apple orchards for 100 years. Apples are high in sugar and make their way into fat stores. We have several bears who gain weight over the winter.”

Lackey said that’s not necessarily bad for the bear’s health, but it does change the ecology of the animal and that isn’t good for bears or people.

While the bear population hasn’t budged in the last decade, the number of bears killed by humans in one way or another is up 1,500 percent.

“If you look at the bear population, it is at 200-300 animals tops,” he said. “The bear population is not changing. We’ve looked at that scientifically. But the distribution of bears is changing. There are bears in higher densities in urban areas and lower densities in rural areas where they are supposed to be.”

Bears aren’t the only wild animals moving into the cities. Deer, coyotes, raccoons and mountain lions are all moving into more populated areas.

Bears are just more obvious because they are larger and more likely to have a conflict with people.

“When they run out of food, then they start breaking into people’s homes and moving into urban areas,” Lackey said.

Sgt. Tom Mezzetta of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said officers are armed with bear rounds issued by the state Department of Fish and Game.

“They fit in a shotgun shell and it fires a plastic projectile like a tiny torpedo that hits the bear and stings their hide, putting the fear of man back into them,” Mezzetta said.