California Bear Died From Ticks

Chico News, Bear Hunting Magazine

A mature black bear found ill on a hiking trail last Wednesday in upper Bidwell Park died on Thursday, according to California Department of Fish and Game biologist Henry Lomeli. The bear was found by a hiker on the Yahi Trail. Wardens and Lomeli were told it was dead, but it stirred as onlookers approached it.

Lomeli and two game wardens responded to an area near Brown's Hole and found the animal barely breathing. "Its respiration rate was about three per minute," Lomeli said.

It was suspected the bear, a 7-year-old male weighing about 225 pounds, was suffering from tick paralysis, a condition which can quickly cause respiratory failure. Lomeli administered a tranquilizer by hand, then removed about 40 ticks from an area below the bear's ears. He feared that neurotoxins from the insects had already overwhelmed the animal.

"Removing the ticks is the only treatment, and animals often recover," Lomeli said. He noted that deer, dogs, and sometimes even young children can be susceptible to tick paralysis. The bear was given an ear tag and moved farther up into the park, near the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve. Lomeli guessed that is where its habitat had been. "We came back to check on him Thursday morning and found him deceased, apparently from respiratory failure," Lomeli said.

Other than the paralysis, which can come on quickly, Lomeli said the bear was extremely healthy and well fed. "I don't think he suffered for long," he said.
The body of the animal was placed in a freezer and will be sent to Sacramento, where it will be used by Fish and Game officials for educational purposes.

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