INCLINE VILLAGE — Wildlife officials on Wednesday released a mother black bear and her cub into the Sierra wilderness, one day after they were accidentally trapped near a home in Crystal Bay.
The six-year-old, 150-pound sow and her 30-pound male cub were trapped Tuesday morning in Crystal Bay, according to a statement from the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
NDOW labeled it “a delicate situation” because the trap was not meant for the mother and cub, but instead for a “potential conflict bear that had been reported to have been causing property damage to homes in the area.”
“(The mother bear) was caught in a trap, with her cub remaining free outside the trap,” officials said. “After about an hour of trying, NDOW was able to capture the cub and reunite it with the sow.”
Both were tranquilized, tagged, tattooed and micro chipped on Tuesday before Wednesday’s release in the mountains above Crystal Bay.
“Hopefully the experience of being handled will stick with the bears and they’ll stay in the wild where they belong,” NDOW Black Bear Biologist Carl Lackey said in a statement. “That will only happen if humans are more careful about attracting bears with garbage and other food temptations.”
While NDOW officials on Wednesday reported a “successful” release, others weren’t as pleased with the department’s actions this week, considering the bears apparently did nothing wrong but wander toward a trap that was baited for another animal.
Incline Village resident Carolyn Stark said the department often instills fear into residents and visitors and overreacts to situations with black bears.
“There isn’t really data to support that a habituated bear is a more dangerous bear — in fact, it shows just the opposite,” said Stark, who was on scene Tuesday morning at the trap, as well as for Wednesday’s release. “Basically, NDOW likes to use words like ‘aggressive’ and ‘dangerous’ to justify their kill policy, and that’s not fair to the bears, and it’s not fair to the people who live in bear country.”
Tuesday’s incident marked the fourth bear trapped in a one-week span on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe; while the mother and cub will live, two others trapped last week are dead.
A yearling female bear, about 18 months old, was trapped on Aug. 27 in the Kingsbury area of Douglas County, near the South Shore. On Aug. 25, a 450-pound male bear was captured in Incline Village.
In both cases, NDOW made the call to kill the bruins, as both were deemed public safety threats due to their “dangerous” and “aggressive” behavior, officials said.
But that shouldn’t be the case, said Stark, who’s an avid volunteer for the Homewood, Calif.-based nonprofit BEAR League.
She said many residents are concerned with NDOW’s policy to kill so-called “conflict” black bears, because the problem lies with residents and businesses who are not properly containing trash.
“We would like to see a change in their trapping policies,” Stark said. “What works in many areas in California and other areas is immediate, on-site aversion … to immediately get that bear for doing something wrong. That’s what’s going to work, not by killing them.
“We would like to see NDOW require people to remove the attractant before bringing out the trap. The trap is a Band-aid fix, it doesn’t solve the problem in the long run.”
NDOW, however, maintains bears that break into homes and cause damage — even though their behavior is almost always caused by human neglect — could be spooked into hurting or mauling people.
“We don’t make these decisions willy-nilly,” department spokesman Chris Healy said last week. “We don’t enjoy doing it, but we also have the responsibility for public safety, and we have to make the call.”
As for the mother and cub this week, just because the bears are tagged doesn’t mean that gives them a “death sentence,” Healy said.
“You know what is a death sentence is all the trash that people continue to leave out,” he said. “Tagging bears has nothing to do with it.”
As for the nuisance bear in the area, Healy said he and Lackey spoke to a homeowner in Crystal Bay who said he saw the bruin break into a neighbor’s house, describing it as “a real big bear with reddish brown shoulders.”
Currently, NDOW doesn’t have plans to place another trap in the area to catch it, Healy said.
“It’s been a week or more since we had a report, so I’m going to wait,” he said.