INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Wildlife wardens killed a 3-year-old male black bear overnight at Lake Tahoe after it entered the home of a 92-year-old woman who left her garage door open, an official confirmed Friday.
Shortly before midnight Thursday, deputies with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call of a bear inside a residence on Miners Ridge Court in Incline Village, said Chris Healy, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
The 350-pound bear got inside the home after entering through the open garage, Healy said. The woman — the only person inside — came across the bear as she descended a staircase in a motorized wheelchair. She left and phoned the sheriff’s office from a neighbor’s home.
A state biologist and game warden arrived around 12:35 a.m. Friday, Healy said, and as the bear was trying to exit out a second-floor window, the warden shot it with a tranquilizer. After a dog treed the bruin, it fell out of the tree after succumbing to the dart. An official later shot and killed the bear.
“It was euthanized because the bear was a dangerous bear,” said Healy, adding that the bear had not been handled before by the department.
Typically, the state operates on a three-strike rule for nuisance bears. Once captured, a bear is tattooed and tagged and given a “strike” — three strikes and it’s killed.
In Friday’s case, however, Healy said the bear — known by locals as “Cloud” — was “not given a second chance … because of the danger imposed by it being inside a house.”
While it’s unclear exactly why the bear entered the home, Healy said an interview with a neighbor indicated the elderly lady “sometimes leaves garbage in the garage … and has occasionally seen a bear getting into trash inside.”
The bear’s body was taken Friday morning to a local taxidermist to be skinned out.
“This is an unfortunate incident because we really want people to be cognizant that we’re living in bear country, and we need to be aware that we can unknowingly be inviting bears or other wildlife in our homes … and sometimes we do when we leave doors open and windows open and things like that,” Healy said.
The incident occurred just hours after a five-agency partnership comprising the Nevada Department of Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, California State Parks, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency issued a public service announcement about being “bear aware” at Lake Tahoe.
In it, officials ask people to practice proper food storage and trash disposal, a message that’s especially important considering the expected influx of thousands of visitors coming soon to the Tahoe region for Memorial Day weekend.
“Spring is the time of year when bears emerge from their winter dens in search of food. Bears are attracted to anything edible or scented,” officials said. “Once they get access to human food and garbage, bears lose their fear of humans and can cause property damage and threaten public safety.”
There are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 American black bears living in the Sierra Nevada, according to the agencies.
According to the PSA, to report bear conflicts in California, contact Northern California dispatch at 916-445-0380. To report conflicts in Nevada, contact NDOW at 775-688-BEAR (2327). If the issue is an immediate threat, call the local sheriff department or 911.
Kevin MacMillan is the managing editor of the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, a sister publication of The Union.