Stay ‘bear aware’ during winter in the Lake Tahoe region
November 30, 2016
Bear-proofing your property
A bear-proof garbage container can solve most trash-related issues. Information on where to purchase approved bear-proof containers can be found at the Tahoe Council for Wild Bears website.
Keep garbage cans clean and deodorize them with bleach or unscented ammonia.
Don’t put trash out until collection. Do not leave trash, groceries or animal food in you vehicle.
Do not feed wildlife.
Feed pets inside.
Block access to crawl spaces under decks and buildings. Keep doors and windows secure from intrusions.
Don’t leave any scented products outside, including non-food items such as candles.
When unoccupied, empty cabins of all food and scented products or keep them in a scent free, bear-proof container.
Information from the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
While the calendar is turning to December and recent snowfall continues to blanket much of the Lake Tahoe region, area wildlife officials warn that now is not the time to become lax on precautions intended to avoid bear-and-human interactions.
"Now is definitely not the time to let up on your guard," said Chris Healy, public information officer for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. "It's extremely important for people to know that bears are still out there and, in some cases, still searching for food."
Bears typically enter hibernation for winter between Thanksgiving and Christmas, meaning it is common to still see a bear up and about, although that might be less likely after this past weekend's storm, according to Healy. NDOW tracks some bears by using remote collars, and that data show the bears are not traveling very far, a sign that the bears are preparing for hibernation, if they have not already done so.
And while most bears will hibernate through the winter months — with young males typically emerging from the den in early March and sows with cubs emerging in April — that is not always the case with bears in more populated areas, commonly referred to as the urban interface.
In some instances, particularly during light winters with sparse snowfall, wildlife officials have documented bears in the urban interface awakening from hibernation on trash nights to feed on garbage, Healy said.
"It's not all of them, but … we've documented it enough where we know it can be a bit of a challenge."
For those reasons, it is important that people in bear country — both those visiting and those residing in — be "bear aware" year-round, Healy said.
That includes never feeding a bear and making it more difficult to access trash. Around this time of year it is especially important to cut off access to crawl spaces and similar sites that bears might look at as potential hibernation dens.
"In order to properly take care of these bears in the urban interface areas you just can't let your guard down," Healy said. "Don't think that they're all sleeping because the next thing you know is you'll have a bear knocking over your garbage … "