As a native of Lake Tahoe, California, I grew up with the privilege of many bear sightings. Some of my favorite memories were camping out under Tahoe’s epic blanket of stars and waking up in the morning to find bear prints encompassing the camp site.
However, with increased urbanization, these memories are going to be just that, memories. If residents and visitors of Tahoe do not become more bear aware, these treasured experiences will not be possible for generations to come. According to recent findings, the iconic grizzly bear on our state’s flag has a dwindling population of 1,100 in North America.
The relationship between bears and humans extends over centuries. In many Native American cultures, bears are revered as resilient, strong beings also possessing the nurturing care for the Earth. When free, undeterred by humans, the bear is a majestic and beautiful being. It is wild and uninhibited, capable of roaming the territories unscathed and carefree. That bear is no more. We have forgotten that our relationship with bears was once a sacred bond.
We have become exceedingly comfortable with bears in our neighborhoods. With a lost the image of the majestic bear, we now view them as pests. There have been many times when I awoke to find garbage scattered on my property. Initially frustrated, I knew that my careless disposal was now a bountiful banquet of left-over Chipotle for a “majestic” bear.
Due to stripping of its habitats, bears must stroll into urbanized areas in search of food. This inadvertent feeding is wiping out the bear population. Given the ample supply of ready meals found around homes and buildings, bears lose the desire to scavenge for food more suitable for their diets within their natural environments.
Furthermore, bears necessitate a couple hundred miles for proper roaming. When we make their habitats our homes by developing on lands habituated by bears, we barricade the bears into petite areas. We also divide and deplete their ecosystems. Despite their limited roaming areas with increased urbanization, bears will remain in their sanctioned habitats as much as possible and normally will not enter areas highly populated by humans.
Unfortunately, people are now excessively trigger-happy regarding the multitude of bears roaming our streets. At the first sight of bears, we hastily reach for the rifle and declare bear season. More often than not, people will blatantly dismiss the permits and maliciously poach the bears illegally.
We unquestionably must lay the rifles down and allow the bears to live. Some of us detest bears because of the amount of property damage they cause. No matter the cost of excessive damages caused by bears, the fact that bears are magnificent beings remains. It is our fault bears break into cars and homes. Bears break into our cars and homes in search of scrumptious food. When we ignorantly leave our food outside on our porches and place our garbage cans in driveways, we are inviting the bears into our homes. It’s no wonder bears enjoy scavenging our neighborhoods.
We are not too late to help the bears. Specific methods of bear prevention in our neighborhoods must be strictly implemented. Sanitation and proper waste management is essential. We must use bear lockers to help secure and store food, recyclables and other disposables that may attract bears.
If people have no need to bear-proof their house, they should still help protect the bears through different organizations. Here in the Reno-Tahoe area, the bear’s presence surrounds us. Luckily, there are agencies in the Tahoe region helping the bears.
The Lake Tahoe BEAR League strives for the protection of bears. It is a nonprofit organization in the Lake Tahoe Basin and in Truckee. Their mission statement is, “People Living in Harmony with Bears.”
The loss of this regal creature due to our blatant ignorance would be horrifying. They may be around for another thousand years if we choose to take certain bear precautions. It is solely up to us if the bear lives or dies.
David White is a Truckee resident.