Reno Gazette-Journal

Coombs: Reno High teen works to save bears

By Katie Coombs
January 18, 2015

Reno Teen Works to Save BearsLast year, I had the opportunity to meet many outstanding Nevada teenagers and highlight their success stories. These stories give readers an opportunity to read positive news and provides hope for a better tomorrow watching the exciting lives of these students. My last interview for 2014 was a little different than some of my previous ones and incredibly enjoyable for me. I had the opportunity to talk with Jackson Stoever, a freshman at Reno High School, and am happy for our community that we have someone like him to admire. While only 14 years old, Jackson has already spent several years devoting his life to saving bears and volunteers for the BEAR League every summer.

Jackson is a fourth-generation Nevadan and an active lacrosse player as well as a member of the Speech and Debate team at Reno High. He specializes in one-person plays where students have to write short speeches very quickly. His ability to communicate was evident during our interview and rarely have I come across a young teen that can articulate events as well as Jackson does. He is a solid student and rarely focuses on video games and social media. He sees them as a distraction to his commitment to school and his extracurricular activities and also realizes that it takes his focus away from more important things, and even described them as useless.

Several years ago while living in Truckee, Jackson became aware of a neighbor who was leaving garbage out on a front deck in regular plastic containers. The neighbor had a bear access and do damage to his deck while seeking the food and was able to get a permit to kill the bear. Jackson and his family worked hard to inform all of the neighborhood of proper containers so that the bears wouldn’t be attracted to the garbage, but unfortunately the neighbor with the permit didn’t comply with these requests and the bear ended up losing its life. For Jackson, this was the beginning of a long journey to make a difference protecting bears. He had to wait until he turned 13 to become a volunteer for the BEAR League, and has been volunteering his time ever since.

His dedication to this special cause includes going to town meetings to inform people about how to live near bears, helping injured or orphaned bears, and helping rehabilitate bears of all ages so they can return to their natural home. Due to the drought, Jackson and the other volunteers have been especially busy this year as the bears are coming down into neighborhoods seeking food for the long winter. Many bears have been injured and hit by cars and Jackson even goes on these hard calls to retrieve the dead bears and give them a proper burial. It is hard work and many times requires working late into the night and staying on site at the BEAR League to help care for the animals. Jackson has given up many things that teenagers enjoy (vacations, sleepovers, and time with friends) to devote his time to this special cause.

Jackson’s future goals are to continue traveling and possibly attend James Cook University in Australia. He is interested in studying Politics and Marine Biology and also wants to stay active with the BEAR League. It is always exciting for me to interview students with high achievements in academics and sports, and also very encouraging to see a teenager take on such a special project that is important to the safety of all of us living in environments where bears should be able to thrive. Jackson took the time to send me a thank-you note which he mailed to the Reno Gazette-Journal. I was so deeply touched by that and had never had that occur in all of the interviews I have ever done (adults and teenagers). His parents, Ted and Christine, should be incredibly proud of the fine young man that he is becoming.

I want to continue to meet teenagers that stand out and give us hope that our country has a solid future coming. If you know a teenager that is working hard like Jackson to make a difference in the world, send me an e-mail at and I will highlight him or her in a future column. We need our children to continue to read real-life examples of their peers succeeding and making good choices in their complicated world so that they will be motivated to do the same.

(Photo: Provided by Katie Coombs)

Katie Coombs is the host of the radio show “Uncommon Sense with Katie Coombs.”


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