INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — It appears yet another chapter is brewing at Lake Tahoe in the ever-evolving debate between locals’ love for the black bear population here and whether or not government should have a say in controlling it.
Many locals were expressing anger and disgust Sunday over the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s decision to erect a baited bear trap in a residential neighborhood in Incline Village.
Among those frustrated was Ann Bryant, director of the Homewood, Calif.-based BEAR League.
“This is a classic case of people not liking our bears and they don’t want to learn about them — they just want to kill them,” she said in a Sunday phone interview.
The trap was set late Saturday, Bryant said, near a home tucked in the upper northwest corner of Incline Village, in the heavily forested Saddlehorn residential neighborhood, on Matchless Court.
While it wasn’t clear as of Sunday evening which bear was being targeted, Bryant did say that social media reports that one of the bears was a “nursing mother” are false.
A call to the cellphone of Carl Lackey, a wildlife biologist with NDOW who regularly deals with department-labeled “nuisance bears” in Incline and on the Nevada side of the Tahoe Basin, was not returned for this story.
According to a press release issued Sunday afternoon from Mark E. Smith (founder of the Facebook group Lake Tahoe Wall of Shame), a pair of residents in the neighborhood recently phoned NDOW to express worry that bears were roaming the neighborhood. The press release alleges the residents are “actively and aggressively soliciting ... NDOW to capture and kill local bears.”
“The only bears reported in this neighborhood have been a mother with cubs and a lone male,” the press release reads. “To trap and kill the mother means almost certainly that the cub will starve to death or be killed by coyotes.”
Bryant said she’s talked with many people living in the neighborhood, all of whom say there have not been any major issues with bears.
According to the Lake Tahoe Wall of Shame press release, the group is encouraging residents to close the trap’s gate, if they can “legally access it.” The trap is baited with chocolate cake.
According to previous Bonanza reports, it is illegal to tamper with or vandalize an NDOW animal trap.
The group also encourages residents to contact the BEAR League should they see a bear in the woods and are unable to scare it away. The nonprofit group dispatches members and volunteers to deal with bears in neighborhoods, using non-lethal tactics to scare them away.
Bryant said the two residents in question first called her group in an attempt to have the bears relocated, something that is against the law in Nevada. When the BEAR League attempted to educate the residents about the basin’s bear population, they wouldn’t listen, Bryant said.
“All of it amounts to the things you do and the things you don’t do when you move into a home that ... is in a heavily forested area where bears live,” Bryant said Sunday. “And when you have a problem, and government comes in and takes care of your problem, well then that’s what irritates the rest of the community here.”
Lake Tahoe Wall of Shame formed last summer, not long after a bear was killed last July when it was found wandering the Raley’s Shopping Center parking lot and approaching people, according to NDOW and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.
The grassroots group’s purpose is to raise black bear awareness by exposing garbage and trash violators — both residential and commercial — throughout the Incline Village and North Tahoe communities.
NDOW operates on a three-strike rule with department-tagged “nuisance bears.” Once a nuisance bear is caught a third time violating the department’s policy (property damage and getting into uncontained trash are two of the more common violations), it is killed.