CARNELIAN BAY, Calif. - When a bear breaks into your home, who you gonna call? Ryan Welch, founder and owner of Bear Busters, of course.A lifelong Californian, Welch has been living in Tahoe for the past decade and has seen his fair share of bear break-ins. While working as a hot tub mechanic, Welch saw his customers' homes ransacked by bears, often resulting in thousands of dollars in damages."I saw what everyone was trying; what was working, what wasn't working," Welch said. "Eventually I was like 'Hey this is a great business, I'm ready to move on and start my own business.' And I did."Welch noticed many of the bear deterrents were either just sound or scent deterrents - sometimes a combination of the two. However, there was nothing physically stopping the bear from entering the home. It was then when Welch decided to learn about electric fencing, a tool long used by ranchers to contain livestock.About two years ago, Welch began mastering his trade. He became professionally trained by Gallagher USA, an electric fence company, and acquired his contractor license."I turn your home into a grizzly lair when you're away, but when you're home, you can remove 90 percent of it and you have your house," Welch said of his work.Welch notes that bears are habitual animals. They travel the same route most nights looking for food. When they have a positive experience with a home, they'll add it to their checklist and keep coming back, looking for more food."Once you do something about (bears), that's how you get off their checklist. That's the goal: to get off the bear's checklist," Welch said.Bear Busters offers several different methods to get your house off the checklist, including electric fencing, tree wrapping, electric doormats, and portable fencing, as well as working with Tahoe Bear Box Co. to sell and install bear boxes. Welch also rents his electric doormats, offers free home and business evaluations and does emergency boarding and clean-up after a bear has broken in."I'll do anything and everything to keep the bear out as long as it's effective and humane. Everything I install is humane; I don't do things that are going to injure or hurt our bears," Welch said.Welch has recently developed his own product, an electric doormat, in an effort to replace nail boards. The doormats are a physical deterrent, like the fences, that shock the bear as soon as it steps on it. The doormats are portable, and are available to rent or purchase.While the electrical fencing and doormat will shock the bear, it won't injure it. The fencing is made up of a hot wire and a ground wire. An electrical pulse is sent down the hot wire every second, allowing the bear to move away from the wire after it has been shocked (where as a constant currant would electrocute the bear and not allow it to move). The fencing has a high voltage (about 9,000 volts), but no amperage, which makes it safe for people and pets, Welch explained."If a kid touches it, he's going to get shocked, but it doesn't leave a burn mark. I've touched (the wires) multiple times. My dogs have hit them. It's kind of a very sharp, quick pain, then it's gone," Welch added. "It tells the bears, 'Hey you're not welcome here, this is our den.'"Welch noted that if you see a bear around your home, you should let it know you're there, by either making noise or throwing something around them to spook them. It's important to not hurt the bear, because an injured bear could be a dangerous bear."(The bears) are not interested in us. They're interested in what's in our kitchen," Welch said. Bear Busters has received rave reviews from the homeowners who have had electrical fencing or other deterrents installed. Many customers around North Tahoe have had multiple break ins, which have stopped, thanks to Welch's work.Nancy Munroe, a homeowner in Tahoe City, had four bear break-ins before she called Bear Busters. After a home inspection, Welch installed an electric fence around the home."Ryan suggested a system to cover the windows that the bear liked breaking the most, with an option to add on to that and cover more windows," Munroe explained. "We have spent more on window replacements than the cost of the system. I wish we would have known about Ryan's services a few years ago."Bear Busters urges locals and visitors to take the time to keep a clean property and do their part to keep bears our of our neighborhoods. "Education is the key to our bears' success. I truly believe that with hard work and dedication in our community ... our bears can be rehabilitated and eventually they won't associate our houses as the food box. That's the goal," Welch said. "We live here, the bears live here - let's do something about it."Learn more about the company at www.TahoeBearBusters.com.
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