From: Wildlife Conservation Society
Published March 29, 2013 06:21 AM

Black Bears return to Reno

A new study from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Nevada Department of Wildlife ( NDOW) has pieced together the last 150 years of history for one of the state's most interesting denizens: the black bear.

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The study, which looked at everything from historic newspaper articles to more recent scientific studies, indicates that black bears in Nevada were once distributed throughout the state but subsequently vanished in the early 1900s. Today, the bear population is increasing and rapidly reoccupying its former range due in part to the conservation and management efforts of NDOW and WCS.

Compelled in part by dramatic increases in human/bear conflicts and a 17-fold increase in bear mortalities due to collisions with vehicles reported between the early 1990s and mid- 2000s, WCS and NDOW began a 15-year study of black bears in Nevada that included a review of the animal’s little-known history in the state.

Over the course of the study, black bears were captured both in the wild and at the urban interface in response to conflict complaints. The captured animals used in the study (adult males and females only) were evaluated for multiple physiological indicators including condition, sex, reproductive status, weight, and age, prior to being released. From the information gathered, the population size in the study area was estimated to be 262 bears (171 males, 91 females). Confirmed sightings and points of capture from 1988 to present were mapped and presented in the report to illustrate current population demographics, and will be used to inform bear management in Nevada.

"It's critical to understand the population dynamics in a given area in order to make informed decisions regarding management," said WCS Conservation Scientist Jon Beckmann. "This includes decisions on everything from setting harvest limits to habitat management to conservation planning in areas where people will accept occupation by bears. We used this long-term study to determine if reported incidences were due to an increasing or expanding bear population, or people moving to where bears are located. The answer is both."

The study area extended from the Carson Range of the Sierra Nevada eastward to the Virginia Range and Pine Nut Mountains, and from Reno south to Topaz Lake—an area collectively referred to as the Carson front. Because many captures were in response to conflicts, the urban interfaces of cities and towns of the Lake Tahoe Basin were included.

Bear cub climbing a tree via Shutterstock.

Read more at WCS.

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