INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. and#8212; This summer promises to be a big year for human/bear encounters in the Tahoe Basin. The mild winter likely resulted in more cubs being born and surviving, while the lack of snowpack will reduce the abundance of food and water in the forest.
The Tahoe area is also experiencing a greater influx of visitors and homebuyers who are inexperienced at living with bears. These circumstances can result in more bears roaming neighborhoods in search of easy food sources made available by human mismanagement.
The situation is made worse by the recently approved Nevada bear hunt. Studies from other states demonstrate that bears are very smart and will move to safer ground to escape the dangers of hunting. When the hunt starts again in September, as wildland food sources become depleted and hunters unleash packs of dogs upon bears, a bearand#8217;s best survival strategy will be to move into town where it is safer and the food more abundant.
This problem was made worse for 2012 when the Nevada Department of Wildlife increased the limit on females from 6 to 20, bringing more hunters and more dogs into the forest and putting more pressure on nursing females and there cubs.
At the same time, NDOW has completely defunded their highly successful Bear Aware/non-lethal intervention program (that programand#8217;s annual budget was only 1 percent of what the hunt is costing, net of tag sales). So their only remaining tool is to capture and kill so-called nuisance bears. Already this year NDOW has captured and killed 3 bears in Incline Village/Crystal Bay, and that figure is likely to skyrocket if we donand#8217;t up our game.
What can we do to help? Learn about our bears. Visit the BEAR Leagueand#8217;s web page or Facebook site and#8212; itand#8217;s chock full of great information about living in harmony with the natives. Or enter the dialogue at Facebookand#8217;s Lake Tahoe Wall of Shame. Then help educate your neighbors, coworkers, employer and businesses you frequent. And hand out literature to anyone interested; both IVGID and the BEAR League have great fliers, available at no cost.
Be bear aware at your home and workplace. Make sure your trash is stored in a bear-resistant container (see, for example, Tahoe Bear Box or call IVGID for more information) and talk to your neighbors about doing the same. If youand#8217;ve experienced a bear trying to enter your home or garage, take measures to make them less attractive to bears (see the Bear League or Tahoe Bear Busters for help with this).
If you see improperly managed trash call the local trash agency (IVGID has a 24-hour trash hot line and they are very responsive: 832-1212). Please do not call NDOW and#8212; theyand#8217;ve killed 75 percent of the bears captured in North Tahoe this year.
If you have a dangerous situation, call the sheriffand#8217;s office or 911. Remember, our black bears are not inherently dangerous and are just looking for food or water. Give them some space and theyand#8217;ll do you no harm. Eliminate food sources and theyand#8217;ll stay in the forest.
And ask your government officials to make local policies more bear friendly and tell NDOW to reinstitute Bear Aware and#8212; you can email the deputy director, Rich Haskins, at email@example.com and the Governorand#8217;s liaison, Cory Hunt, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
and#8212; Mark Smith is an Incline Village resident and creator of the Lake Tahoe Wall of Shame.