700-pound bear's fate all-but determined as Tahoe officials continue search
by Kevin MacMillan
This season, the 700-pound bear that wildife officials have been chasing hasn't had any trouble breaking into garages and sheds
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — In her nine years running Incline Door Company, Jennifer Pranin has never seen anything like this.
“He” is the 700-pound black bear that wildlife officials have been chasing the past three years — a chase that has become high stakes because of the more than $70,000 in damage officials say he has caused this year alone.
Apparently, garage doors are his specialty.
Jennifer Pranin estimates her company — which has seen steady business from this particular bear's carnage since spring — brings in about $250 per service, or about $1,200 a week.
A pre-determined future
Regardless of if or how the bear is caught, one thing is clear: It already has a death sentence.
“Our policy always has been is if they're breaking into homes and garages, they are a public safety issue and they will be euthanized,” said Carl Lackey, Nevada Department of Wildlife biologist, assuring the wildlife department's three-strike rule for nuisance bears would not apply in this instance.
But catching the bear — as has proven to be the case the past three years — isn't going to be easy, he said. And that's not being helped by certain residents in the area.
“The problem is people aren't calling us until the next day, or not at all. If they called us or the sheriff's office as it was happening, we might be able to get there in time,” Lackey said. “They'd rather see other people come out and coax the bear away, and that's what we don't want happening.”
Bryant said the league — a nonprofit bear awareness organization based in Homewood — has received several calls this year regarding the big bear.
“Often the people who call us are those who don't want to see the bear get hurt,” she said. “Of course, we can't do anything about it. We are not an enforcement agency. If we could, we would do what we could to keep the bear from getting killed, but it's pretty obvious this bear needs to be taken off the streets.”
Residents deliberately not calling NDOW presents a troubling problem, Lackey said, one that makes the wildlife department wary of publicizing where it is setting traps and surveying property.
“If I told you where we were trapping, people would probably go out and sabotage the traps,” he said. “We see it all the time.”
Bryant said no one within her organization is out sabotaging traps, and she said the league never condones the behavior.
But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.
“We get blamed for (sabotaging) traps all the time, but we'd never tamper with anything; it's illegal,” Bryant said. “But it does happen around here with other people. There's been times in the past where we'll get private calls from people who tell us, ‘well we don't have to worry about any bears getting stuck in that trap.'”