Bears going out on the town in Nevada

Hungry bears roam into Nevada towns 02:37

RENO, Nevada - Police are after a prowler in this Reno neighborhood and Carl Lackey knows just how to track him down.

"He's right there," said Lackey. "He looked like a three or four-hundred pounder."

Lackey is a bear biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. So far this year, he's documented and tagged 108 black bears -- nearly a record. Most were captured in unfamiliar territory.

Carl Lackey holds a captured bear near Reno, Nevada. CBS News

The extreme drought has not only dried up rivers, it's also depleted the bears' natural food sources, forcing them farther into urban communities to feed.

He was asked if a pile of fish looked like something a bear would do.

"Yeah this is pretty typical," said Lackey. "Bear sushi."

Bears are bulking up for hibernation right now and they need to eat up to 30,000 calories a day -- the equivalent of 103 cheeseburgers.

"There is better habitat down in these neighborhoods than what a bear can find up there in the forest," said Lackey. "Everybody's got fruit trees, lots of urban ponds. It's a food buffet for a bear."

Liz Kern says at least three bears have climbed into her backyard this month. This one was caught after eating most of the fish in her pond.

She was asked if she was concerned that because the bears have come here and found food that they might return.

"Absolutely." said Kern. "They're starving right now, they're looking for food. And I don't know if we're going to be the next casualties."

A bear inspects a trash dumpster. CBS News

Nearby, in Lake Tahoe, hungry bears have been even more invasive -- breaking and entering to raid the kitchen.

Bryce Betterly shows scratches on sliding glass. A bear pried open Betterly's door and smashed his car window.

"It's definitely nerve wracking," said Betterly. "There's a sense of security everyone has and I kind of lost that."

Animal rights activist Ann Bryant says black bears rarely attack people. They are just following their keen sense of smell,

"They're always on a search for food," said Bryant. "And if we provide an easy way for them to get that food, they're going to do it."

A bear finds some food behind a Reno home. CBS News

If these animals are just acting on instinct, people may ultimately bear the responsibility.