Wayward Reno bear has ‘really good chance’ at healthy life
A healthy, young female bear had her first encounter with a trap Saturday evening in Reno.
Wildlife officials hope it will also be her last.
They caught the two-year-old bear just a few hours after setting a trap near Interstate 580 and Mt. Rose Highway.
She had wandered into town and was likely feeding from fruit trees before getting caught, unharmed, in a live trap set by the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
“For her to be down there she was getting into human food sources,” said bear biologist Heather Reich.
Reich hopes catching the bear and moving her to more appropriate habitat she will have a better chance for a long and healthy life.
But before release Reich sedated the bear so she could apply tags to her ears, insert a microchip under her skin and attach a satellite tracking collar.
The tags and collar will help with ongoing research to monitor Nevada bears, which are among the most thoroughly-studied bears in the nation, according to Reich, who has studied bears in Montana and Utah.
“We want to be on top of our bear population,” Reich said. “This is the way to get that information.”
Reich tagged and collared the sedated bear Sunday in advance of a planned Monday release.
At the time of release wildlife officials will use firearms loaded with rubber bullets and specially trained Karelian bear dogs to chase the young female into the forest.
It’s a practice known as aversion training. The idea is to give captured bears a memorable scare so they think twice before returning to town.
The sooner a bear becomes averse to humans and dogs the better chance it has at living a long, healthy life in appropriate bear habitat and avoiding hazards associated with human-bear conflict.
“These younger bears are really receptive to it,” Reich said of the aversion tactics.
The bear caught Saturday, now known as B-59, was the 56th bear handled this year by the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
That’s fewer than in past years because, officials think, last winter’s break from the drought means they are finding more food and water in the mountains.
Among documented bear mortalities this year in Nevada there have been seven bears killed by cars, five by hunters, two for public safety and one from unknown causes, according to state tracking data.
Reich said she’s hopeful B-59 can escape a similar fate.
“She is young, we are catching her early in her conflict behavior,” Reich said. “She has a really good chance.”
Nevada wildlife workers trapped this bear which had been roaming in an urban section of Reno. They trapped it for release into the mountains. Before release they attached an identification tag and tracking collar. Benjamin Spillman/RGJ