Photo courtesy of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care.
One of the most important lessons imparted to medical doctors following their Hippocratic Oath is “first, do no harm.” The same can also be said of veterinarians and wildlife professionals when deciding if and how they should capture a wild animal.
A California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologist and wildlife officer responded late Friday afternoon (Aug. 13) in South Lake Tahoe to a report of a young bear in a tree. They worked in coordination with a Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care (LTWC) veterinarian and staff while assessing a bear that was believed to be the same bear that escaped from LTWC’s facility two weeks prior. The bear had previously been brought to LTWC from the Tamarack Fire where it received treatment for burns.
The young bear on-scene Friday had a dark marking on its face, which resembled the Tamarack Fire bear, and was roughly the same size. No bandages were observed.
CDFW and LTWC staff together watched the bear with binoculars while it easily climbed 30 feet higher into the tree indicating its paws were functioning properly. It was behaving as a wild and healthy bear should and with no clear sign of injury. Surrounding fresh scat indicated the young bear was actively foraging on native berries.
Based on the behavior displayed, the success of native foraging observed, and input from LTWC and CDFW veterinarians, the decision was ultimately made not to disturb this bear further and leave it in the wild. Although only about 8 months old, black bear cubs have been shown in scientific literature to survive in the wild without their mother at this age and younger (J. Beckham 2006). Please visit CDFW’s website for more information on how you can help keep bears healthy and wild: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild
While CDFW cannot be certain this was the escaped bear, residents and visitors to the South Shore Lake Tahoe area should always be aware of bear activity in their neighborhood. Please report any abnormal bear behavior to CDFW at (916) 358-2900.