Black Bear Spotted Near Verdi Elementary School; Busy Year Expec - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Black Bear Spotted Near Verdi Elementary School; Busy Year Expected

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Verdi Elementary School spent much of the day in a code yellow lockdown, after a black bear was spotted wandering near campus. Animals generally stay up in the mountains, away from humans, but during dry years, some will go where they have to, in order to find food and water. This year, they're expected to be seen in the urban interface, early and often.

"If you're out in a place like Verdi, seeing a bear is actually a fact of life out there, fairly frequently," Chris Healy, Spokesman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife said. "But it's probably good judgement on behalf of the school district to be cautious because when kids see the bear, they want to go out and play with the bear and touch the bear. That's not something you want to have happen."

Just last Wednesday, a mountain lion was spotted near Meadowood Mall. Officials think the cat was a young male that recently set out on it's own.  It was never captured.

"Often times, the bigger toms see them as competition for the girls and they don't want anything to do with them," Healy said. "They'll chase them out of their territory and, in some cases, actually kill them."

Most wandering bears are also males, looking for food.  The Department of Wildlife has captured 1,075 bears since 1997, euthanizing less than ten percent of them.  The busiest year was 2007, when 159 were caught.

"We saw bears coming down into places we hadn't seen before, wandering on the campus of the University of Nevada, coming up the river corridor and getting behind a Wendy's restaurant," Healy said.

When a bear is captured, NDOW takes hair and blood samples, tattoos it's lip, and marks it with an ear tag and microchip.  The information is something Healy says gives them one of the best black bear databases in the western United States.

"We know where they go, how they traverse the country, just what parts of the mountains they have to use," Healy said.

Officials say nuisance bear activity is greater during hot, dry years, and this summer will be no exception, coming off our third year of drought.

"Nature needs a drink of water and when nature doesn't get the big enough drink of water, it doesn't grow the amount of natural foods that bears need to stay up in the hills and to increase their body weight."

Nearly 100 bears were caught last year, making it the second highest on record. Some of those hadn't been seen since the big year of 2007.  Healy says you can also expect more coyotes and rattlesnakes to wander into urban areas this summer.

Written by Paul Nelson

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