KINGS BEACH, Calif. — A Lake Tahoe woman could face fines or jail time for allegedly feeding bears after officials learned she was attacked by one last month.
A California Department of Fish and Wildlife investigation started Aug. 7, two days after the woman — whose name and age are not being released — was bitten twice by a black bear in her Kings Beach yard, said Lt. Patrick Foy, with the department’s law enforcement division.
The woman was bitten in the shoulder and the leg and received treatment for her injuries, he said.
“It’s important for people to never habituate bears to human food to prevent this exact problem from occurring,” Foy said.
Upon learning of the incident, Fish and Wildlife officials interviewed the woman and collected her clothing for a DNA analysis in order to identify the bear.
When wildlife wardens visited the woman’s property shortly after the incident, eight bears were seen on her property, Foy said.
Four bruins were caught and have since been released after DNA results were inconclusive that any of them was the bear that bit the woman.
After several weeks without finding the bear, CDFW has concluded its search, Foy said.
Meanwhile, CDFW is “actively” investigating the woman for potentially violating state law that prohibits feeding big game animals, including bears, he said.
Violation of that law is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine. As of Friday, the woman had not been charged, Foy said.
If CDFW determines the woman violated the law, it will file with the Placer County District Attorney’s Office, which will determine if a crime was committed.
Since 2010, the woman has been warned “multiple times” against feeding bears, Foy said.
The BEAR League, the mission of which is keeping bears safe and wild in their natural habitat, has also received calls about the woman, said Ann Bryant, executive director of the nonprofit organization.
Volunteers have turned over reports to CDFW and have talked with the woman in the past, Bryant said.
“(Feeding bears) invites them into areas where they really shouldn’t be,” she said. “They learn to associate food with humans, they become comfortable around humans (and) they stop foraging naturally.”
Bryant said those who feed bears may think they are helping them, but they’re not.
“We hope this case will allow people to realize why both Nevada and California have laws against feeding bears and that they will respect these laws,” she said.
In December 2013, Incline Village resident Jane Green received a formal warning from the Nevada Department of Wildlife for illegally feeding bears.
One of the bears fed by Green was reportedly killed by game wardens on Dec. 19.