Bear Nuisance Response Near Record Levels

RENO, NV - Nevada's Department of Wildlife released two bears this past weekend--one in the Carson Range, the other in the mountains near Zephyr Cove.

Both were chased with dogs and shot with rubber shotgun slugs to discourage them from returning.

Two weekends ago the same scenario played out south of Verdi, where a black bear was released after raiding a chicken coop.

Two days prior, a second bear was released west of Carson.

So far 51 bears have been captured this year, with NDOW taking more than 360 complaints.

“We would have a big nuisance bear year. Now it doesn't match the big year of 2007. So all of the nuts and berries the bears would have relied on totally froze and never developed in 2007. Then really on the first day of summer of that year it got into the high 90s and low 100s and it stayed there,” says Chris Healy with NDOW.

The bears were spotted near the UNR campus in September 2007.

Another bear was near downtown Reno.

All looking for food to sustain them through hibernation.

Some have suggested feeding the bears far away from town so they won't come and disturb neighborhoods.

It's a theory the Department of Wildlife dismisses outright.

“If you artificially try to feed them, you are actually expanding the population at a time when nature won't support the population,” says Healy.

Healy points to the winter of 2005, when severe weather forced mule deer to gather around a former grazing area which was now developed.

Some residents took it upon themselves to feed the deer, which eventually killed them because the food wasn't something they normally ate.

Others died after wandering into traffic and onto railroad tracks.

Healy says while the mule deer population has gone down in this area, the remaining herds are holding their own.

Feeding the bears is now illegal under Nevada state law.

Last legislative session, lawmakers enacted Senate Bill 371, which prohibits people from intentionally feeding big game or game malls under certain circumstances.