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Cub reunited with mother

by Linda Hiller

The orphaned black bear cub, who was living with the meter running while Nevada Division of Wildlife biologists searched for its mother, is probably running free today with “mama bear” after spending a scary week alone in captivity.

The 15-year-old, 150-pound mother bear was successfully tracked with hounds and captured Friday morning by NDOW biologist Carl Lackey with the help of some ursine experts.

The drama began midweek when caller reported a mother bear and two cubs spotted in the area of Tillman Road.

Saturday evening, a call reporting another sighting was broadcast over Douglas County Sheriff’s Office police scanners, and some “yahoos with police scanners,” as Lackey called them, hastened to the scene and harassed the bears enough to separate the cub from its mother.

Sunday afternoon, a “bear up a tree” was reported, and when Lackey and NDOW volunteer Shannon Shamblin hit the scene, they found the cub.

The 35-pound female was tranquilized in the tree, carried down by Shamblin and placed in safe holding. NDOW officials searched the area for its mother, and by Wednesday, she was spotted on a nearby ranch.

A live culvert trap was set with the cub’s cage in the vicinity as a lure, but Mama eluded the trap that night. The unusually cold and windy weather may have spooked her, Lackey said.

Thursday night, she was spotted near the cages, but still avoided voluntary capture, so Friday morning, Lackey – with the help of some sharp-nosed hounds run by Greg Brackett and the assistance of University of Nevada, Reno bear researcher Jon Beckmann -located the well-fed sow.

“The dogs found her, and she went up a tree where we darted her,” Lackey said. “She came down and ran a ways, but was asleep right away. She’d been hiding in the ditches on the ranch -there was plenty of food available for her. She was feasting on apples.”

– Close call. The cub had been kept in captivity all week with the hopes that the mother would be located so the family could be released together, but Lackey was getting disheartened by his efforts to find a home for “baby bear” if the mother wasn’t caught. Lackey had been making calls to area zoos, but as of Thursday evening, he’d had no takers.

“Black bears are pretty common,” he said. “The zoos either have one already or don’t want any. This cub couldn’t have survived on its own, though.”

Lackey said if the mother hadn’t been located, he didn’t know what they would have done with the cub.

“It wasn’t looking good,” he said. “But now that we’ve got the mother, we’ll reunite her with her cub tomorrow and release them in some good, available bear habitat away from here. We aged her at around 15 years, which is getting pretty old for a bear, but she wasn’t a tagged bear. She was just a wild bear that got in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Lackey said that in the end he and the other bear experts concluded that there was probably only one cub with female all along, and the person who spotted two cubs the first night may have been mistaken.

“The tracks we saw showed that the mom was alone after Sunday,” he said. “I think there was probably only one cub to begin with. Tomorrow, we’ll release them together in some real good, available bear habitat. It’s a nice, happy ending.”