Bear Drama at Donner Summit Bridge

LHA map committee chair Paul Gilger tells us that the big story along the Lincoln Highway in California last month was the rescue of a bear hanging from the Rainbow Bridge atop Donner Summit.

CA bear 1

According to the Tahoe Daily Tribune, the 250-pound bear climbed over the edge to avoid cars about 3 pm Saturday, Sept. 15, then got stuck and hung on overnight until being rescued around noon Sunday. Claw marks could be seen in the concrete railing where the bear tried to stop itself from falling.

CA bear 2

A passerby got a net from an Army surplus store and strung it beneath the span, then an animal control official shot it with a tranquilizer dart. A pole was used to push the bear off the girder, then about a dozen volunteers safely lowered the bear 80 feet to the rocky ground below as about 100 spectators cheered. Truckee Animal Control Officer Dan Olsen said the joint effort included help from his organization plus The BEAR League, Nevada County Animal Control, the California Highway Patrol, and rock and tree climbers.

CA bear 3
Photos courtesy Town of Truckee Animal Control, and special thanks to its Manager Dan Olsen.

Follow-up and more images HERE.

6 thoughts on “Bear Drama at Donner Summit Bridge

  1. That is one of the most amazing and heart-warming things I’ve seen. They didn’t have to be that elaborate in the rescue efforts; it renews your faith in people.

  2. Pingback: More on the Donner Summit Bear Bridge Rescue « Lincoln Highway News

  3. Definitely a human interest story. I didn’t see it on any of the national network news. Too bad.

    Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  4. Look very closely at the second picture.

    Then consult an experienced climber regarding a free climb downward and INWARD with one’s feet for a distance of 3-4′. As one who has tracked and hunted bears in past years, and free climbed for over a decade, I can assure you that the circumstances are NOT as represented by the media.

    In effect, the person responsible for the media report is likely just making up the circumstances or they CHASED the bear up the base of the arch. More likely, some tourists hiked down below the span for pictures, and noticed the bear relaxing under atop the arch. Then they began trying to ‘agitate’ him and he panicked at the intrusion and nearly fell.

    If you look at other pictures of this bridge, it is easily accessible from the points where the arches meet the ground.


    • I haven’t tracked bears, but have climbed extensively, and a lot @ Donner Summit. I agree with Doc, it makes sense that the inertia of the bear trying to escape over the rail would have led to an 80′ freefall. How the bear was able to swing inwardly under the car deck without slinging some sticky Spidey web is beyond me. Even a slow, deliberate (unlikely given a frightened animal) down climb seems physically improbable. I go with the animal harrassment theory as there were no eyewitness report of the bear on the bridge deck, only conjecture. Would love the see a picture of the ‘claw marks’.

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