Sheriff, Incline residents seek answers in shooting death of bear

Published: May. 8, 2017 at 5:36 PM PDT
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She wasn't just any bear. She had a name and many in Incline Village were used to the sight of her.

That familiarity, coupled with a mistake by a sheriff's deputy, may have led to her death this past weekend.

Jasper--as Incline Village residents called her--was well-known in Incline neighborhoods. That familiarity led to a book about her, "A Bar's Tale,". but it also indicated she frequented these streets looking for an easy meal, usually from unsecured trash. That behavior often leads to problem and puts the animal at risk.

Every year it means intervention by authorities, which can include a rubber bullet to discourage this potentially dangerous behavior.

We're told that wasn't the intent as a Washoe County Sheriff's deputy confronted her and her three cubs Saturday.

"The intent wasn't for us to kill an animal this Saturday morning," says Sheriff Chuck Allen. "The intent was to scare her off with her cubs."

But instead of a painful sting from a rubber bullet, she received a potentially lethal round.

Efforts to save her were unsuccessful and she died of her injuries.

She was shot with a standard issue Remington pump shotgun. It can shoot a variety of rounds, including the non-lethal bean bag or rubber bullet. It's hard to mistake one for the other. They are clearly marked. Each has a distinctive casing.

Sheriff Allen is waiting for a full report before passing judgment on what happened, but he thinks he may already know the answer.

"I have a general idea of where the fault was made and that appears to be when the shotgun was unloaded to take the live rounds out and reloaded with a combination of non-lethal and lethal rounds, but these were not loaded in the correct order."

The sheriff's office does have shotguns which are clearly marked for use with non-lethal rounds. But the deputy involved in this incident had only a standard issue weapon, which had to be loaded for non-lethal work.

Encounters with bears are not uncommon for deputies serving at Incline. It was not immediately clear if deputies there have both weapons in their patrol vehicles. In any case, the duties of this particular deputy, however, didn't normally include patrol work at the lake.

Jasper's death has upset many. An online petition demanding answers has garnered well over 6,000 signatures.

The sheriff gave no timeline for his internal inquiry but said he didn't expect it to be long.

Meanwhile Division of Wildlife officials tell us the three cubs were yearlings, at the point in their development where they were ready to strike out on their own.

Unfortunately they may have learned the same dangerous behavior which led to their mother's death and may need intervention in the future.