Toree Warfield

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May 7, 2014
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Toree’s Stories: Two states of reason with handling bears

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a three-part series of Toree’s Stories that discusses living with the black bear population at Lake Tahoe. Read Part One here, and Part Two here.

If you haven’t yet viewed the video of the 6-pound baby bear dropped off recently at the BEAR League, please add it to your viewing lineup.

Access the video on the Bonanza website — tahoedailytribune.com — to see this baby behaving like any other baby — enjoying a bottle and later, sucking and kneading her blankie!

The cub was dropped off anonymously, literally on the steps of the BEAR League headquarters. Ann Bryant, executive director, was able to immediately deliver the cub to another venerable agency here at the lake, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care in South Lake Tahoe, where she is receiving the care she needs.

See additional video and pictures of her at ltwc.org.

Nearly two weeks later, a man, who wishes to remain anonymous, called the BEAR League, stating that he found the cub in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, crying and clinging to its deceased mother.

Authorities told him to leave the cub alone but his conscience wouldn’t allow it, so he brought the cub to the BEAR League facility, nearly 400 miles away.

The rescue of this baby bear is but one of the many services provided by the BEAR League, based in Homewood and staffed with volunteers stationed all around the lake.

As we learned in part one of this series, the BEAR League was formed 16 years ago by a small group of residents who believe in living in harmony with nature.

Sixteen years ago and prior, bear conflicts were handled entirely by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. At that time, if a person reported a “nuisance” bear, the CDFW would set a trap and destroy any bear that happened to be captured, along with nearby cubs.

It took time, but a relationship has developed between CDFW and the BEAR League, so that CDFW relies on the BEAR League to help resolve certain bear disturbances that are reported to CDFW.

Subsequently, most bear/human encounters are resolved peacefully, with minimal damage to property and few casualties for the bears.

For some reason, the same arrangement has been more difficult to obtain with Nevada’s equivalent of the CDFW, the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

The aversion techniques utilized by the BEAR League involve “training” the bear on site. NDOW, on the other hand, traps the bear, tranquilizes her, moves her to another location and the next day applies aversion techniques to a bear that has awakened in another location, completely unaware of why she is in the situation she finds herself.

The bear eventually makes her way back to where she was captured and last felt safe, the lesson having been lost.

This is the reason why the BEAR League and its many supporters are very much against the trapping of bears and why bear advocates are so determined to “guard” any traps that appear, mostly in Incline Village, even to the point of being arrested for tampering with the trap, which is, of course, illegal.

Once a bear is trapped, it is tagged. Since the “training” it receives in another location is not effective, eventually the bear repeats the behavior, and is eventually killed by NDOW.

A shining example of the effectiveness of the BEAR League’s aversion techniques is a bear called Rudy, who dwelt on the west shore of Lake Tahoe a number of years ago and developed a love of ice cream.

He would enter a home, make his way directly to the fridge, remove the ice cream from the freezer and commence eating it in the parlor. He was well known in the community for not ever making a mess.

Residents were determined to keep him alive, so with the help of the BEAR League and the local sheriff’s department, they set about “training” him.

It took weeks and about 12 “training sessions,” during which time a total of 35 homes were entered and “robbed” of ice cream, but the determined team of people succeeded in teaching Rudy that this was unacceptable behavior. He finally got the message, quit his bad habit and made himself invisible in the forest.

The BEAR League has grown to over 2,000 members and is eagerly lapping up more. The goal is to have a connected web of volunteers, figuratively joining hands all around the lake in a united effort to protect the black bear of Lake Tahoe.

Another training seminar like the one I attended a few weeks ago will be offered soon, open to any person interested in learning about bears or with a desire to become part of the solution.

At the end of the engaging presentation given by Ann Bryant, you will be given the opportunity of joining the BEAR League as an official volunteer, if you so desire.

The dates and location will be announced in all the local papers, or contact the BEAR League at 530-525-PAWS (7297).

Toree Warfield is an avid nature lover, and writes this column to teach and stimulate interest in the marvels that surround us. See save-our-planet-earth.blogspot.com to read columns and to find links to bird song recordings, additional photos and other content.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated May 8, 2014 11:55AM Published May 7, 2014 03:04PM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.