To Be Released Tuesday Using Aversive Conditioning
Three black bears were caught overnight in west Reno. A female and two cubs were caught by a Nevada Department of Wildlife game warden on Sunday night/Monday morning. The bears were caught in the Juniper Ridge area off of Mayberry Drive.
The saga for the bears began when the female was caught in a trap in the latter hours of Sunday evening. A report of two cubs near the trap prompted NDOW game warden Randy Lusetti to respond to the area where one of the cubs was quickly shot with a tranquilizer dart. The other cub eluded the warden but was finally caught early Monday morning when a second trap was placed near the spot where the female was caught and the first cub tranquilized.
The bears will be "processed" early Monday afternoon and will be released into the mountains above Reno some time on Tuesday. Processing of bears include the affixing of ear tags, tattooing of lower lips, placement of identifying microchips and the possibility of placing a satellite collar on the female.
West Reno has been a "hotspot" for bears since early October as area fruit trees ripen and bears hone in on "easy meals" as they prepare for winter. With this latest capture, five bears (three adults and two cubs) have been captured in west Reno since Sunday October 20. Three bears were captured this past week in Carson City on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
All of those bears plus the three caught in west Reno have been or will be released back into the wild using aversive conditioning techniques designed to scare the bears and give them a chance to be wild. (See below for a description of how the process works).
Bears are still in the physiological state of hyperphagia where their in-take of food can increase from 3,000 calories a day to as many as 25,000 calories per day. "Their one and only job is eating this time of year and they are very good at it," says Lackey. Sierra Nevada black bears usually go into hibernation in between Thanksgiving and Christmas as food sources become harder to find.
Persons needing to report nuisance bear activity can call the NDOW’s Bear Hotline telephone number at (775) 688-BEAR (2327). For information on living with bears persons can go to www.ndow.org and find the "Bear Logic" page.
Aversive Conditioning: How it Works
Black bear biologist Carl Lackey describes aversive conditioning like this:
"Once we have the bear in the trap and right as we release it, we shoot rubber bullets at it and chase it with Karelian bear dogs (when available), using all of the tools available to us in our aversion conditioning program. The goal is to make the bear uncomfortable and make it think twice before coming back to civilization."
Lackey stated that on-site releases and the chance to use aversion conditioning on the bear gives NDOW a chance to "save" the bear from becoming a dangerous bear in the future. "When people who need help call us first, it gives us the chance to intervene right at the time when the bear first gets into trouble, when that happens we have a chance to alter its behavior."
NDOW has saved nearly 400 bears using aversive conditioning treatment since the technique was first employed in the late 1990s. "The key to saving these bears is that we receive a phone call from the public right when the bear shows up in a neighborhood," said Lackey. "When we’re allowed to do our job from the beginning, without interference from outside groups, we can save most bears."