Tahoe wildlife officials continue search for elusive and massive black bear | SierraSun.com

Tahoe wildlife officials continue search for elusive and massive black bear

Jean Eick
Sierra Sun
Community Submitted PhotoBear paw prints leading into The Village Church Sunday morning, after the alleged 700-pound bruin broke into the church.
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INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. and#8212; A bear that has been causing a path of destruction all over Incline Village and has gained regional media attention is now receiving prayers from a local congregation after it helped itself to a Thanksgiving feast recently inside the church.

The Rev. Dick Randall of the Village Church in Incline Village sent out a prayer request asking his congregation to pray for the bear. The request in the e-mail said:

and#8220;Pray that this bear(s) and#8212; which have done over $70,000 plus damage to homes and now a church and#8212; is caught and relocated. Pray also that it does NOT come back to our church.and#8221;

Two weeks ago, Nevada wildlife officials tabbed the black bear to be around 700 pounds, confirming it may be responsible for as much as $70,000 in damage this year. The bruin has captured regional media attention the past couple weeks, with reports coming from newspapers and television stations in Reno, as well as the Associated Press.

It has evaded traps and special night patrols sent to look for it, a Nevada Department of Wildlife said, and even two bullets fired by a homeowner did little but slow him down for a couple of weeks.

and#8220;The deputies up there all say he’s the biggest bear they’ve ever seen,and#8221; Carl Lackey, a biologist and bear expert with NDOW, said. and#8220;He’ll walk right by a trap, he won’t go in them. He’s really random in where he goes. He’s made it real tough to catch up with him.and#8221;

Lackey said that this summer, a homeowner armed with .44 magnum handgun confronted the bear after it broke into an Incline Village home that it had already broken into several times before.

and#8220;He shot it right between the eyes and the bullet bounced off his skull. We know that because we found it,and#8221; Lackey said. and#8220;He shot it again and hit it. We know that because there was a lot of blood, but it wasn’t a mortal wound.and#8221;

Within a few weeks, the bear was back to its old antics, breaking into garages and going after trash or food in freezers.

On the evening of Saturday Nov. 21, the bear made the Village Church his next victim.

The church annually prepares and distributes food boxes to those in our community in need at Thanksgiving. Residents spent most of Saturday organizing the food that was collected and preparing to be packed into boxes Sunday.

However, sometime Saturday night, the bear found a way into the church by removing the outside handle on a back door and pulling off the push bar to get inside.

Once inside, the bear found a feast and consumed 22 jars of peanut butter, opened and tasted and#8212; but did not eat and#8212; a few boxes of corn flakes. These items were all on a table waiting to be packed. Next, the bear moved into the church kitchen, where he opened the freezer.

and#8220;He proceeded into the kitchen, opened the freezer using the handle, and created no damage, except to the inside shelves, as he helped himself to a few cans of frozen orange juice and a few dozen sweet rolls,and#8221; said Helene Larson, a member of the congregation.

Larson said that the bear left with a package of Ramen Noodle soup and#8212; the package was found up the hill from the church.

Just this week, the alleged bruin returned to the residence of Lynn and Steve Berardo. Here’s an e-mail from Lynn on what took place early Wednesday morning.

and#8220;We were woken at 4:10 this morning by the eerie sound of metal hinges giving way under pressure and wood crunching under the blows of The Bear. This time we got a really good look at him. On hind legs the bear’s head was higher than the top of the garage door. On all fours he’s about 36and#8221; tall and six feet long. We know this because of the way the car is parked he had to come toward us (we were inside the house) to be able to turn around.and#8221;

Lackey, who has been chasing the bear for the last three years, said it has broken into 40 or 50 garages around Incline this summer alone.

and#8212; The Associated Press contributed to this report.