A Nevada Department of Wildlife biologist shot and killed a bear near Stateline about two weeks after it broke into an occupied home and made several other break-in attempts.
The bear, a two-year-old female, too young to bear cubs, known as Blue 54, was shot on July 28 following an encounter in which she lashed out at a homeowner, department spokesman Chris Healy said.
It was the final human conflict for a bear that had escalated displays of dangerous behavior in the prior weeks, Healy said.
“Her conflict behavior seemed to be ramping up,” he said.
The first encounter
The bear’s first encounter with wildlife officials happened May 8 in the Stateline area of South Lake Tahoe.
She was captured and collared following attempts to raid trash bins in the area, said NDOW biologist Carl Lackey.
It was her first capture which gave wildlife officials hope that she would respond to aversion tactics such as chasing her off with bear dogs and rubber bullets, he said. After being collared she was dubbed Blue 54.
“We collared her hoping that one bad experience to dissuade the bear,” Lackey said.
But the bear didn’t change its behavior, according to tracking data. Rather than moving into the forest it stayed in the developed area, apparently looking for food around houses.
“The hazing did not work,” Lackey said. “A lot of her GPS fixes were daytime fixes around homes.”
The home invasion
On July 17 homeowners reported a bear that fit her size description attempting to enter a home.
It was dark and the homeowners couldn’t tell if the bear seeking to break into their home was wearing a collar. But tracking data from the collar showed Blue 54 was in the area at the time.
On July 23 different homeowners had another, scarier, encounter that was confirmed to be with Blue 54, according to NDOW.
The bear broke into the house, with people home, and began rummaging through the kitchen, even turning on the gas to the stove.
“She entered the home and walked around on the counters looking for food,” Healy said.
The bear made yet another attempt to break into the same house on July 26, Healy said. The attempt prompted NDOW to set a trap.
Two days later, the homeowner called again to say the bear approached the house and headed for some stairs leading to an entryway, Lackey said.
When the homeowner tried to scare it off the bear responded by making huffing noises and pounded its paws on the ground, he said.
This time Lackey responded and shot the bear.
Healy said the bear had shown so much determination to break into the house, even with people home, that there was little choice but to kill it.
"Once it breaks into an occupied home there is no going back for that bear," Healy said. “That is a bear that crossed that line.”
Blue 54 represented the 42nd time this year NDOW officials handled a bear in some capacity, with seven fatalities.
Four of the fatalities were because bears were struck by cars, two were bears being killed for public safety and one death of a female with cubs was for an unknown reason. The cubs are being raised in a Nevada wildlife sanctuary and will eventually be released to the wild.
Bear encounters that involve injuries to humans are rare, but can happen.
In June a black bear swiped through a tent in the Angeles National Forest, injuring the occupant and prompting a search by California Fish and Wildlife officials seeking to capture and kill it. In 2014 a bear attacked a Lake Tahoe woman who authorities said had been feeding bears in her yard.