Orphaned Lake Tahoe bear cubs to be cared for by NV wildlife officials | SierraSun.com

Orphaned Lake Tahoe bear cubs to be cared for by NV wildlife officials

Nevada Department of Wildlife's Heather Reich inspects a 3 1/2-month-old orphan bear cub April 9 in Minden.
Brad Coman / The Record-Courier |

Be bear aware

There are several websites out there that offer helpful tips regarding being bear aware in the Sierra Nevada. Below are a few:





STATELINE, Nev. — After some of Lake Tahoe’s youngest residents were orphaned, Nevada Department of Wildlife stepped in to help them out.

The turning of a season creates special opportunities to see some of nature’s newest members, especially in Northern Nevada where the proximity to nature can be less than 5 miles.

The closeness of humans and nature during the spring makes NDOW’s phone ring off the hook with calls about baby animals.

“We get phone calls all the time from people that see a small animal out there and they immediately think it needs rescuing,” NDOW’s public information officer Chris Healy said. “In almost every case the animals don’t need rescuing and certainly don’t need humans handling them.”

The most common call NDOW receives is that of baby birds that are lying on the ground.

Some people feel the need to handle the baby birds that have fallen from nests, thinking it is injured or unable to defend itself, Healy said.

“This is all part of the maturation process,” he said. “When they get out of the nest they are all downy and look pretty helpless. If you back off and keep your pets away, the baby bird will be OK. Most of the time there is one if not two adults around during the process.”

Handling baby animals can be disruptive to the natural cycle of learning to fly or care for itself.

Leaving them alone and giving them space is the best advice NDOW can give anyone that encounters young nature, according to Healy.

“Nature doesn’t allow every single animal to survive. It is just part of the process,” he added. “When humans interfere odds are none of them will survive.”


In the case of a few bear cubs living in Stateline, off Lake Tahoe’s South Shore, however, intervention was a necessity.

NDOW captured four 3-month-old bear cubs who had been orphaned after their mother, an 18-year-old sow, was found dead nearby.

“In the case of these young cubs, they were in an urban interface area and because we knew that mom was a bear that was making her living within the urban interface, it called for some action,” Healy said. “We made an exception to this case because common sense tells us that this case is different. If the sow had been in the Pine Nuts with the same amount of cubs and the same thing happened we’d never know about it.”

Initial investigation and tests from the sow have not revealed any immediate information in regards to a potential cause of death.

The same thing that draws baby birds out of their nests and fawns out of the woods, NDOW believes it may have been nature taking its course.

“The fact that she is 18 years old is enough of a rarity for a bear as it is,” Healy said. “The fact that she was an 18-year-old with four cubs is even more so. Having four cubs in advanced age could have left her in some kind of health distress.”

The four cubs, two boys and two girls, weighed in at 7-10 pounds each and were taken to Animal Ark in Reno for care and rehabilitation with hopes of potential release.

While the cubs will be cared for by humans, their contact with them will be minimal, just like the animals area residents could come in contact with, Healy said.

“They (Animal Ark) have done this for us before and we have had success,” he said. “They will raise them for us and put them into hibernation. We will take them to the backcountry of Lake Tahoe into an artificial den and when they emerge hopefully they will become wild bears. It is not fool proof, but we have had a lot of success.”


Although NDOW stepped in for the cubs, they urge the public to admire the new life from a distance.

Also, being aware and taking preventative measures while living with wildlife can prevent the potential for baby animal encounters.

“This time of year if you’re an active bird feeder, remember that when you put out the feed, you’re not only attracting, say, a humming bird; you’re also attracting raccoons and skunks and even bears. You have to take care of what you’re doing. Putting your feeder in a place where it is not accessible by those species helps ensure you’re not inadvertently attracting them.”

Those homes that have dog doors are also reminded that other creatures might use them to gain entrance to homes as well.

Again, animal proofing the area will prevent those animals from coming into your property to find the dog door in the first place.

If a baby animal is seen, give it space and keep pets — including cats and dogs — away from the area for a couple of days to allow the young animal to move on.

“We live in a wonderful area where we’re not very far from nature at all,” Healy explained. “When we live this close you add the potential problem of encounters and people need to be aware of what they’re doing.”

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