Incline Village bear shooting at Lake Tahoe remains under investigation
Community members gathered at the Village Green this past Mother’s Day to celebrate the recent loss of one of Incline Village’s most well-known moms: Jasper the bear.
The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate an incident in which a deputy fired a live round rather than a rubber bullet at the bear on May 6, ultimately killing the animal.
“Our review of that incident is still underway, so we have not finalized our report of the incident,” said Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Bob Harmon.
The female deputy was responding to a call about a group of bears on Driver Way and Village Boulevard when she reportedly fired a live round instead of a rubber one by mistake.
“She inserted 3 shells, and then a lethal shell and they were inserted in wrong order,” Harmon said.
The bear was transferred to the Nevada Department of Wildlife for care but did not survive.
In a May 7 statement, Sheriff Chuck Allen said, “The Sheriff’s Office will thoroughly review the incident and take whatever measures are deemed appropriate.”
Although details can’t be released until the investigation is complete, Harmon said the department has already taken several steps to prevent future accidents with wildlife from occurring.
“One of the things we’ve done is we’ve gone ahead and ordered about 15, less-lethal weapons,” he said.
“Less-lethal” weapons, also called non-lethal weapons, fire a round that is intended to cause pain but not puncture the skin. In some areas with bears, law enforcement personnel carry one weapon for non-lethal bullets, in addition to their regular gun. The idea is that by keeping the non-lethal bullets separated from the lethal ones, fewer accidents will occur.
“We will issue those to deputies so they will have those at all times,” Harmon said. “Primarily those that work in areas where they have wilderness … we’d be looking at the deputies in those areas where they’re likely to come across bears and other wildlife.”
Some deputies already carry two different guns, but the deputy involved in the May 6 incident had been assigned to work in South Reno that day when she received the bear report in Incline Village. She was not equipped with a non-lethal weapon at the time.
“We had a less-lethal version of the shotgun. It’s still a shotgun, and it looks exactly like a shotgun with orange on it,” Harmon said. “Some deputies had those, but we didn’t have enough for all of them.”
Sheriff’s deputies have also recently engaged in training sessions with the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) to learn techniques for managing bears.
“We had a training session last week with NDOW … we also videoed the training so deputies can watch the video,” he said. “It is my understanding that all deputies will going though that training and go through it again once a year.”
Harmon said the sheriff’s department has also been meeting and working with the Bear League to determine how they can safely manage bears going forward.
The Bear League is a North Lake Tahoe-based volunteer organization that educates local communities on how to live with bears.
Amanda Rhoades is a news, environment and business reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @akrhoades.