Being bear aware at Lake Tahoe important for Labor Day weekend |

Being bear aware at Lake Tahoe important for Labor Day weekend

KINGS BEACH, Calif. — Deanna Marsh, a North Lake Tahoe resident, had in interesting afternoon Wednesday. A family of three bears — a mother and her two yearlings — decided to swing past her home in the area of Kingswood Village in Kings Beach and check out the backyard. One of the young bears got particularly curious when it got a look at itself in a mirror outside. After awhile, the family of bears moved along, and all was safe. It serves as another reminder of the different types of wildlife that call the Sierra Nevada home — and, it's also a reminder about the importance of everyone working together to keep bears in the wild and people safe. There are several websites out there that offer helpful tips regarding being bear aware in the Sierra Nevada. Below are a few: • • • Also, to learn more about how to live responsibly with wildlife, including keeping food and garbage secured and not feeding wild animals, visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Keep Me Wild website at

Food comes with instructions to protect bears

Human food should never become bear food. Wildlife advocates have found a new way to communicate that message. The Tahoe Council for Wild Bears has enlisted the help of Safeways across Northern California and Hawaii to distribute grocery bags that list ways to keep bears in the forest and away from a back yard. Starting today, and lasting for two weeks, the chain of grocery stores will hand out grocery bags with a printed message “Keep Bears Alive and Wild.” Tips listed on the bags include asking not to feed bears in the high country and how to store trash and food. The campaign will be kicked off Wednesday at a Safeway in Sacramento. “The reason we’re doing the event in Sacramento honestly is because we’ll get more media attention,” said Melinda Booth of Defenders of Wildlife, which is also backing the effort. “And to target (Tahoe) vacationers who are probably least informed on the issue.” Defenders of Wildlife is one of 11 groups that has formed a partnership to let people know that human or pet food left in the wrong place can result in the death of a bear. “This message will be really successful if people in bear country not only learn to bag their trash, but to put it in bear- resistant containers as well,” said Carl Lackey, of the Nevada Division of Wildlife. Lackey tags and tracks bears routinely attracted to Dumpsters, barbecue grills and pet food. If a bear comes back one too many times or if a bear enters a house, Lackey often puts the animal down. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife adheres to a similar policy. The Tahoe Council for Wild Bears includes: the Animal Protection Institute, the BEAR League, California Department of Fish and Game, Defenders of Wildlife, Echo Lakes Environment Fund, the Human Society of the United States, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, McClintock Metal Fabrications Inc., Nevada Division of Wildlife, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the U.S. Forest Service. — Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

“Heavenly” bear facing life in captivity

A young black bear dubbed "Heavenly" after he was found injured and approaching people at Heavenly Ski Resort in March must spend his life in captivity, having become too accustomed to people for food. The bear was treated for his injuries for six weeks at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care in South Lake Tahoe. Injuries included a puncture wound and abrasions on his shoulder and scraped up pads on his feet. California wildlife officials then released the 1-year-old bear back into the wild near Monitor Pass. Within a week he was found in a neighborhood near Cave Rock approaching people. "We were hoping after he healed he would go free, but he decided he didn't want to be a free bear," said Cheryl Millham, of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. "He obviously had been imprinted when he was a youngster, and people should realize when they think they are helping these animals (by feeding them) they are not. It's a death warrant and he is total proof of that." Nevada Department of Wildlife trapped the bear on Monday, spokesman Chris Healy said. The goal was to release the bear back into the wild. But after talking to California wildlife officials and examining the bear's behavior it became obvious the animal is too acclimated to humans, Healy said. California wildlife officials are searching for an animal sanctuary or zoo that will accept the bear. Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care agreed to hold the bear until a home is found. "We were able to work with California for them to find a place to put the bear. We could do it this time, but this is not something we can do with every single bear we are forced to handle, because there are not an unlimited amount of places we can put bears," Healy said. According to Healy, NDOW wildlife biologist Carl Lackey said the bear displayed signs of being a "multigenerational garbage bear," a bear whose parents rely on people and garbage for food and teach their cubs how to get into people's garbage for food, rather than how to survive in the wild. "Unfortunately for the bear, it now has to spend its life in some cage rather than as a wild animal. The people who don't take care of their garbage or deliberately feed the bears can take credit for that one," Healy said.

Department of Fish and Game warns of unwanted bear encounters

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The California Department of Fish and Game reminds people enjoying the Lake Tahoe Basin to take precautions to avoid black bear encounters. This area is prime black bear habitat, and many of these wild animals are not afraid of humans. Recently, a bear was killed after a man in his tent was injured as the bear tried to break in. Bears are constantly searching for food that humans inadvertently make obtainable to them. It is important for everyone to avoid creating odors that attract bears. They are attracted not only to food but also perfume, cologne and containers that once held food. “A bear’s fate is almost always sealed once it associates humans with food,” said Marc Kenyon, DFG statewide bear program coordinator. “It’s unfortunate when a bear becomes a threat and has to be killed because people either haven’t learned how to appropriately store food and trash, or simply don’t care.” Last year DFG staff logged more than 5,200 hours handling black bear nuisance calls in the Lake Tahoe region alone. Bears’ attempts to obtain human food cause the majority of public safety incidents involving bears. California’s growing black bear population is now estimated at more than 30,000. DFG biologists have ramped-up staff and study efforts to learn more about urban black bear trends while providing increased public response throughout the Tahoe Basin. Black bears are located in most of the state where suitable habitat exists and bear-human encounters are not isolated to wilderness settings. DFG wardens and biologists respond to numerous wildlife feeding issues throughout the state. Access to human food or garbage, whether it is overflowing from a campground or residential dumpster or in the form of snacks in a tent, is the most common bear attractant. When wild animals are allowed to feed on human food and garbage, they lose their natural ways – often resulting in death for the animal. Feeding wildlife or allowing wildlife access to human food provides unnatural food sources, habituates animals to humans and can change animal behavior from foraging for food in the wild to relying on human food sources in or near urban areas, which can lead to bears breaking into cars or houses to seek out food. It is also illegal to intentionally feed wildlife in California. DFG’s Keep Me Wild campaign was developed in part to address the increasing number of conflicts between black bears and people. The campaign provides important tips for living and recreating safely in bear habitat, and advice on what to do when encountering these wild animals. Please visit for more information.

Lebec bear heading home after treatment

A young black bear is getting a second shot at life in the wild this spring, being released back into the wild after eight months of treatment at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. The "Lebec bear" was brought in from south of Bakersfield last July. The bear is the South Lake Tahoe wildlife rehabilitation center's first bear release this year and was hauled Tuesday in a bear crate from the center to near where it was captured. "He was only 13 pounds and all by himself with no mom, so he was pretty small when he came to us," said Cheryl Millham, of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. The bear came in with foxtails in his ears, two ticks on his body and a wound on one of his left legs. He spent the last eight months growing and getting rehabilitated and now tips the scales at a bit more than 65 pounds. "He was getting the right food and the right care for the right amount of time, playing with the other cubs and staying away from humans," Millham said. About 14 months old, the Lebec bear was tranquilized and given one last health inspection before he was picked up by the California Department of Fish and Game and hauled away Tuesday. "Our biologist found some really prime habitat, with some green up right now, which is very rare in this drought time, and near some water sources. So we'll take this bear down there, open the crate up and let this bear go off on his own," said Marc Kenyon, senior environmental specialist with California Department of Fish and Game. "When he gets down there he'll have essentially a second chance on life." Three other young black bears remain at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care and also are expected to be released back into the wild this spring. They include a bear from Meeks Bay, a bear from Truckee and a bear brought in from Heavenly Mountain Resort.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Bears, other wildlife

Bears and other wildlife play a significant part in Lake Tahoe’s economy, as well as the state of Nevada as a whole. Keep in mind, that not everyone likes to gamble or leave there money at the casinos. Many visitors come to Nevada to see remnant’s of the old west, and wish to see bears, wild horses and burros interact in their natural habitat. But, if the Department of Wildlife, the Department of Interior, the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Agriculture and other government agencies have it their way Nevada’s bears, wild horses and burros will be killed and slaughtered and eventually will be just another animal or species placed on the endangered, or extinction list and eventually forgotten. No sir folks, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. The vote to hunt the bears, as well as the round up of the wild horses and burros is all about power, money and greed, all at the taxpayers expense. I suggest that we get smart, get off our duffs, and give our support to Christine Schwamberger and Kathryn Bricker of and join together to help Ann Bryant of the Bear League and not to forget Tom and Cheryl from Lake Tahoe Wildlife Rescue. So my friends, take this as a call to arms. Do whatever it takes to save the wildlife for us and future generations to come. Randal Massaro Victorville, Calif.

Hunter bags biggest bear near Kingsbury

MINDEN, Nev.- So far the biggest black bear taken in Nevada’s first hunt was killed in Douglas County on Tuesday. A 700-pound male bear was hunted between Highway 50 and Kingsbury Grade, according to Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy. The bear, estimated at 7 years old, is the fourth taken so far in a hunt that started this weekend. A 500-pound male bear was killed Monday in the Sweetwater Mountains. That bear was originally thought to have been in the Pine Grove Mountains, which are further east. The Sweetwaters are located across Antelope Valley from the Pine Nut Mountains. Two females have also been killed since the beginning of the hunt. Healy said all the bears that have been hunted have been wild. “We have never touched any of these bears,” he said. “They’ve never been tagged or identified as garbage bears. The hunters are staying in wild areas and the bears that have been taken are wild bears. There are a lot of bears up there.” Nevada’s first bear hunt started Sunday. A total of 16 more bears will be hunted unless hunters get six female bears first. “You want to be very conservative and make sure you don’t take too many females,” he said. “Males aren’t what drives any wildlife population.” The bear hunt is scheduled to continue until Dec. 31 or until all the bears have been taken. A Lake Tahoe group called NoBearHuntNV sued to block the hunt, saying there wasn’t adequate public notice, but their challenge was overturned. Regulations approved by the Nevada Wildlife Commission established the season, tag quota and other rules for the hunt, including one that says that no female bear with cubs can be killed. Tags cost each of the hunters $50 for residents, and $200 for nonresidents. In all, 45 tags were issued, but some of those hunters will leave empty-handed.

Three bear cubs captured and released in Stateline

Three black bear cubs were captured, processed for identification and released Wednesday near Kingsbury Grade. The bear cubs, a female and two males estimated to be five months old, were trapped, tranquilized and processed by Nevada Department of Wildlife Biologist Carl Lackey. The mother was never more than 40 yards away while the cubs were being examined. Processing includes the attachment of identifying ear tags and a microchip, a tattoo on the bear's inner lip and collection of a hair sample for DNA. The cubs weighed between 15 and 22 pounds and reunited with their mother after being released. The mother is estimated to be about 19 years old and has had at least three litters and 10 cubs since she was first captured in 2004. "Besides tagging the female in 2004, we have now tagged the 10 cubs she has had since," Lackey said in a press statement. "She and her offspring have provided a lot of information to our ongoing research on Nevada's black bear population." Nevada Department of Wildlife has trapped, processed and released nine black bears since July 1. "We are doing our best to keep these bears alive and wild. The information we derive from this ongoing research helps do that," Lackey said. "To keep bears like this alive and wild, people throughout the Tahoe Basin need to do a much better job of keeping trash away from these bears. Human sources of food are bad news for bears. We do not need another generation of garbage bears at Lake Tahoe or anywhere else." July is Bear Logic Month in Nevada. State wildlife officials are asking people to do everything they can to keep bears safe and wild by removing any attractants on their property that might cause bears to get into trouble.

Yearling black bears released into Truckee area wilderness

TRUCKEE, Calif. – The California Department of Fish and Game has successfully returned two black bear yearlings to a remote wilderness near Truckee. Both female cubs were orphaned last summer. One cub was illegally dumped last June on the front porch of Ann Bryant, executive director of the BEAR League. Weighing only 12 pounds, the cub was emaciated and starving. The other cub was reported by a citizen who kept seeing it alone and bawling near Markleeville last August. A DFG investigation determined the bear was an orphan. “It weighed about 30 pounds and was unusually lethargic for a cub,” said Cristen Langner, DFG’s bear biologist in the Tahoe Basin. Both cubs were taken to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, a wildlife rehabilitation facility licensed by DFG. While at LTWC, they were fed and housed in a way that prevented them from becoming habituated to humans, so they could be returned to the wild when they were old enough to care for themselves. DFG Wildlife Rehabilitation Coordinator Nicole Carion oversaw the cubs’ care and arranged for their release in suitable habitat, away from human activity. DFG staff Ryan Carrothers, Shelly Blair, Marc Kenyon, Sarah Deaton, Cristen Langner and David Casady transported the sedated bears, then placed them in a man-made den at a wild and secluded location nestled in the Sierra Nevada. The operation concluded as planned with the cooperation of University of California at Berkeley and Sagehen Creek Field Station staff. When released, the two yearlings weighed approximately 70 and 85 pounds. Marc Kenyon, DFG statewide bear program coordinator, points out people should never assume a young animal in the wild has been abandoned by its mother. In many cases, human interference with wildlife will result in abandonment by their species, and sometimes their inevitable captivity or death. “In the vast majority of circumstances, cubs or other wildlife that appear to be abandoned are simply being cared for by their mother from afar. She’s usually off obtaining the nutrition required to rear her offspring,” Kenyon said. “But in the rare circumstance when something unfortunate happens, DFG has the ability and expertise to ensure appropriate care for the young until they can be safely released into the wild, such as these cubs. I fully expect them to become wild bears when they wake up in their new home this spring.” DFG recommends that people leave wildlife alone, including removing attractants from their properties. If this is not an option, contact DFG. For more information, please see

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care treating bear burned in Washington wildfire

Things just keep getting busier at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care this summer. The nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center in South Lake Tahoe accepted a 10th black bear for treatment Monday, a yearling injured in a wildfire near Wenatchee, Wash. Then on Tuesday it took in an 11th bear, a cub brought in from Paradise, Calif. Eleven is the most bears the South Lake Tahoe wildlife rehabilitation center has ever had in for treatment at one time. Seattle-based pilot Bill Inman flew the yearling black bear nicknamed "Cinder" in a one-seat plane to South Lake Tahoe from Wenatchee after the bear was injured in a wildfire. Wildlife officials in Washington state sent the bear to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care because of its experience treating animals with burns. In 2008, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care treated a bear cub nicknamed "Li'l Smokey" that was injured in a wildfire near Redding. The bear's badly burned paws healed after several months and the animal was successfully released back into the wild in February 2009. "Cinder" weighed about 39 pounds when brought to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. The bear has extensive burns to its paws, legs and face. Veterinarian Kevin Willitts examined the bear Monday morning to prepare a treatment plan for the animal. "Our hope, our goal, with every animal, is to get them released back into the wild in the best possible health," said Tom Millham, who runs Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care with his wife, Cheryl, and a team of volunteers. The bear brought in from Paradise on Tuesday is the third cub brought in from that area this year, Millham said. The animal is believed to be related to the other two cubs. It's been a busy year for the nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center, which wants to move forward next year with a relocation and expansion to a 27-acre parcel near the corner of Al Tahoe Boulevard and Pioneer Trail in South Lake Tahoe. The group is trying to raise funding for a second phase of that project as well as money to treat the bears, which can cost up to $100 per week each to feed. Aside from the record 11 black bears that are in for treatment, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care is also treating a Canada goose, a dozen raccoons, three red-tail hawks, two great horned owls and some other animals it doesn't see many of, including a flying squirrel, yellow-bellied marmot and spotted skunk. "It's been a busy summer with a lot of different species," Millham said. He estimates the group will care for 600 to 800 animals this year.