The bears are located by tracking their previously attached radio collars, and the plan is to dart and tranquilize the animals to allow for a quick physical exam, replacement of worn transmitters and identification of new cubs.
At about noon Tuesday, the team located the den of a sow and her two cubs, born last winter. "We were curious to see if the cubs had survived," said Dax Mangus, regional wildlife manager for the DWR.
"We successfully darted the collared female and noticed one yearling bear also in the den with her," he added. "We loaded another dart and were ready to dart the yearling when the dart accidentally discharged and struck the biologist in his hand."
Team members are trained to provide emergency aid in such cases, and they acted quickly, Mangus said.
"We had only 15 to 20 minutes before he possibly lost consciousness, so we knew we had to act fast. We didn't have any cell service," he explained. "And, in the steep, timbered canyon, we knew we couldn't safely land a medical helicopter. So, we made a plan."
Three team members climbed to the top of a nearby ridge, got a cell signal and called for a medical helicopter to land there. Two other team members hiked back to their vehicles as a backstop measure, and the remaining employees gathered the team's gear.
The wounded biologist hiked to the top of the ridge on his own and was flown to the hospital for treatment. After an overnight stay, he was released Wednesday morning.
DWR officials declined to identify the biologist and asked news media not to attempt to interview him, at least for now.
"[He] needs time to rest and recover," DWR spokesman Mark Hadley said.