Solution sought for bears spreading litter | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Solution sought for bears spreading litter

It's no secret: Tahoe bears love trash. The cunning animals have a reputation in the Lake Tahoe Basin of sniffing out and procuring the most protected of human disposables. They are known to raid trash bins frequently, often spilling hazardous material all over the ground. So why is this happening? Some local and wildlife experts say it's partly because of a major basin-wide trash problem — one that needs a basin-wide solution. "A coordinated approach across the basin is necessary to address the human trash problem, which has caused the unwanted and frequent presence of bears in urbanized areas seeking easily accessible food," said Carson City resident Fred Voltz, who spoke in front of a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency committee Wednesday. A group — which included officials from both California and Nevada's state wildlife agencies — met with members of the TRPA committee this week to talk about the region's growing trash problem. Some asked the agency to issue an ordinance mandating bear-proof trash bins throughout the basin. Others, such as Incline Village General Improvement District trustee Jim Hammerel, asked the TRPA to look at how other mountain communities dealt with their trash problems and urged the agency to step in locally. "I think that although the TRPA is worried about wildfire ash and quagga mussels and things that we measure in millimeters, the TRPA, in my mind, has turned a blind eye to some of the larger trash and litter across our environment," said Hammerel, who was not representing IVGID at the meeting, but speaking as a private citizen. However, TRPA governors said the issue does not have a simple solution. One concern is whether the agency has enough resources to enforce an ordinance if one so happened to be issued. Marsha Berkbigler, a TRPA Governing Board member, said there are a lot of factors that need to be considered. "This is a much bigger problem than just saying, 'OK. So TRPA, pass a rule,'" she said. "I think this has to be looked at from a lot of different aspects and a lot of different communities." Nevada Department of Wildlife Director Tony Wasley, Nevada Wildlife Commissioner David McNinch, California Department of Fish and Wildlife scientist Canh Nguyen, IVGID Resource Conservationist Madonna Dunbar and BEAR League Founder Ann Bryant were also among those who spoke to TRPA governors about trash issues Wednesday. Wasley said about 95 percent of the issues NDOW has with nuisance bears are directly linked to trash and trash management. TRPA Governing Board chair Shelly Aldean agreed that the issue does need to be looked at more closely and said "she wouldn't be adverse" to putting together a work group on the matter. Without the TRPA's intervention, however, the trash issue likely remains in the hands of the many jurisdictions surrounding the lake.

Letter to the editor: Bear-proof trash cans would help deter trash bears

Regarding the article on human-bear conflicts on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe printed Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. I have one answer for the problem: bear-proof trash cans! All the bear diversion tactics used to keep bears away from our trash cans mentioned in the article are well-intentioned, but let’s make it simple: mandate all residents of Lake Tahoe to use bear-proof trash cans. We currently let bears have access to our trash, which means we are feeding them and it is against the law to feed wild bears! I have backpacked the Sierra Mountains in and around Tahoe for 30 years and have seen what a difference bear-proof food canisters have made in the wilderness. We backpackers used to hang our food from trees in the hopes the bear wouldn’t get to it. Once bear-proof canisters were introduced, we were able to carry our food into the wilderness, leave it on the ground in the bear proof canister and the bears would roll it around, but would not get our food! Let’s do that here at the lake. Surely we Tahoe residents can afford $69 for a heavy-duty, screw-top trash can! Will garbage bears without access to our trash then enter our homes for food? Probably. Look, we let our lake bears produce generations of trash bears, now we have to deal with our mistakes. Letting bears eat our trash is a mistake. Here something to think about: Why don’t we let the licensed bear hunters in Nevada kill the nuisance trash bears instead of the innocent wild bears they now kill? Joanne King South Lake Tahoe

County tackles bear problems with more notices

El Dorado County Environmental Management has been hearing more from residents who are fed up with their neighbors leaving out trash for bears, and has started issuing more letters warning those out of compliance with the county’s bear-proof trash can codes. “We’ve had more complaints recently so we’ve been sending out more notices,” said director Ginger Huber. It is illegal throughout Tahoe to provide food to bears by leaving out trash. Repeat violators are forced to purchase a bear-proof metal container, which can cost $1,200. In the Kingsbury area a few years back, several neighbors successfully sued a neighbor who was providing food to bears after the animals began breaking into homes and damaging property. Residents are also starting to get the word that they can solve bear problems in an inexpensive way, according to BEAR League Executive Director Ann Bryant. A new type of trash can available for $70 has proven its bear-proof attributes in Tahoe after going into use last summer, Bryant said. Those who use the containers can avoid a citation that requires them to buy the more expensive enclosures. Now visitors and renters have to get on the bandwagon, she said. Tahoe is experiencing the typical summer bear run-ins. Several have broken into homes and cars and several have been euthanized. The Tahoe Daily Tribune was contacted by media outlets worldwide after it ran a photo of a young bear at the steering wheel of a vintage red Buick convertible. But many don’t realize bear encounters are a daily occurrence in this mountain town. El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago is currently dealing with her own bear problem after moving into a home where the previous renter had a habit of feeding neighborhood bears. It stops by at least once a day, she said. So she’s been proactive, spraying her trash cans with PineSol and keeping the cans inside until trash day. She intends to buy one of the low-cost bear cans soon. “Listening to the advice the BEAR League puts forth is the best thing you can do,” she said. The League contacted Santiago earlier in the summer to discuss what they perceived as a chronic problem at the South Shore of feeding bears with left-out trash. “The biggest problem is dealing with the visitors that come and leave their garbage out for several days,” Santiago said. “Environmental Management has worked with those people and to make sure they know they can’t leave their garbage out like that.” Bryant said people should not be afraid of bears and should try to scare them away if they enter a neighborhood. Homes with dogs are often not bothered. “They do not hang out where they are being hassled,” she said. Bear solutions: — Cheap bear-proof trash cans are available from Tahoe Bear Can Co. for $70. Call (530) 906-0327. — To complain about trash accessed by bears: county Environmental Management Department, (530) 573-3450. — For advice on non-lethal ways to address a bear problem: BEAR League, (530) 525-7297.

Neighborhood won’t bear trashy bruins

For bears, trash is an easy dinner. Bears have been coming to neighborhoods in increasing numbers to raid the trash containers, but several neighborhoods throughout the basin are setting standards with regulations to stop the intrusion. The Lake Village Homeowners Association is the most recent to hop on the band wagon. But while laws to keep trash under control and bears out of neighborhoods have been enacted in communities near Yosemite National Park, Smoky Mountain National Park and Mammoth Lakes, Tahoe has yet to follow suit. Douglas County Commissioner Don Miner said that traditionally homeowners associations have addressed bear issues on their own. But all that will change if the Bear League gets its way. The League plans to propose mandatory trash controls in Douglas County, an idea whose time has come, said league member Rita McEwing. “If we can all get together and do trash ordinances, we can all live in the forests in harmony,” McEwing said. “And we can have the natural wildlife here that makes this place so beautiful.” While the mess that bears can make of people’s trash is a nuisance, the problem can be more severe than a mischievous night prank. On the California side of South Shore five bears have been killed since August by the California Department of Fish and Game, McEwing said. And this year a trio of bears, also later killed, broke into homes in Rubicon and Meeks Bay looking for food, she added. Carl Lackey, a biologist for the Nevada Department of Conservation, said that the frequency of neighborhood bear intrusions has increased dramatically in recent years due to urban sprawl and because bears which become accustomed to human food continue to seek it out. “Ten years ago we had a handful of complaints a year, and we are up to 150 to 200 a year now,” said Lackey, who is responsible for the Nevada side of the Tahoe Basin and Carson Valley. Lackey said educating the public about bears and the use of bear containers is the only way to stop the problem. While Donner Tahoe, Tahoe Village and Chamberlins have implemented their own ordinances, Lake Village has recently adopted some pretty strict codes of its own. Trash can only be placed in designated trash containers between 6 and 9 a.m. on trash days, unless put in a bear-proof container. The first offense gets a warning, but then fines begin in $25 increments for each offense and can go as high as $500. While bear containers could alleviate the hassle of conforming to such a tiny window of time, the cost for a Bear-ier container made by McClintock and used by Lake Village is around $600. One Bear-ier will be shared by two home owners and the association will pick up $100 of the tab. The communities of Dollar Point and Sky Land are also considering ordinances of their own, but whether Douglas County will agree to mandate trash ordinances remains to be seen. Ann Bryant, executive director for the Bear League, said she is hoping to get the issue on the Douglas County Commission agenda as soon as possible and is hoping that regulations can be adopted by spring.

Mother bear, 3 cubs trapped and tagged

Four bears – a mother and her three cubs- were trapped in the lower Kingsbury area by Nevada Division of Wildlife on Wednesday morning. The cubs will be tagged and the mother fitted with a radio collar, officials said, and released back into the area today. “We’ve been doing research on urban bears that hang out in urban areas and get into people’s trash,” said Carl Lackey, biologist with the division. The research has been ongoing since 1997, he said. Sometime before 7 a.m., one of the cubs wandered into the large cylindrical bear trap. The mother and two other cubs sniffed and pawed at the trap as the cub whined in distress, according to Kingsbury resident Ramona Di Domenico. Wednesday’s event is common on the Nevada side of the Lake Tahoe Basin. Each year, Lackey responds to about 40 calls from residents who complain of nuisance bears on their property. In many instances, Lackey will set traps for the bears, catch them and then release them into the wild. “One cub was trapped, and the two other cubs and mother refused to leave the other one behind,” Domenico said. The bears retreated into the woods when wildlife officials showed up. Eventually, all four were tranquilized and removed in a truck. Many are concerned for the life of the bear when they see a trap, said Anne Bryant, director of the BEAR League. In Nevada, bears are usually trapped to be tagged and studied, she said, while in California, the Department of Fish and Game issues bear depredation permits when bears are deemed a nuisance to homeowners. Bears are usually killed after being trapped, she added. It is not illegal to feed wildlife, including bears, in Nevada. However, Douglas County has an ordinance requiring bear-proof trash containers at homes where bears have gotten into trash, said Lackey. It is illegal in California to make food available, intentionally or non-intentionally, to bears. Hibernation ahead Bears become more active in fall as they prepare for hibernation. The BEAR League is getting more calls each day reporting bear activity near homes. As temperatures drop, a bear starts consuming up to 25,000 calories a day as it fattens up for the winter. There’s plenty of food in the wild for them to achieve their caloric needs, said Bryant. They will spend up to 20 hours a day eating berries, grubs, trout and even dead animals. The league insists black bears are harmless and will easily scare away in response to loud yelling. Trash attracts them, even if stored in the garage. They recommend using original scent Pinesol to cover the scent of trash in cars, garages and trash cans. Many new bear-proof trash canisters, running around $70 each, are still available. For more information, contact the BEAR League at (530) 525-7297.

Douglas County moves forward to curtail hungry bears

MINDEN — Douglas County made a move Thursday to send hungry black bears packing by unanimously approving the first reading of an ordinance that would require tamper-proof trash containers at homes already hit twice by nuisance animals. Lisa Granahan, assistant to the county manager, pointed out that if adopted, the ordinance is not mandatory for all residents. “Only after two violations within two years, does the ordinance require installation of a bear-proof container,” she said. And the towns of Minden and Gardnerville are exempt. She also pointed out that the law has been in effect at the Tahoe basin for several years and to date, no one has been required to purchase the trash container, which costs from $200 to $700. The first reading passed following about an hour’s discussion on the black bear problem that exploded in Carson Valley over the summer. In July and August, Nevada Department of Wildlife dispatchers received 4,792 calls about bears from Douglas and Washoe county residents, up from 3,704 calls in 2006. The number of department responses doubled from 207 in July to 408 in August, according to figures presented to commissioners. Those statistics did not stop the board from refusing to hand over more money to the department, which is responsible for managing the black bear population and answering nuisance calls. Ken Mayer, director of the department, told commissioners costs in Washoe and Douglas counties increased about 50 percent this year to an estimated $167,385. He did not request a specific figure from commissioners, but earlier, state officials asked the county for $50,000. During public comment, ranchers Frank Godecke and Patricia Settelmeyer placed the responsibility for the increased nuisance black bears with state officials. “I don’t think the Department of Wildlife has done the job managing the population,” Godecke said. “For 50 years, you’ve let bears procreate and now there are more bears than habitat to support them.” He dismissed an argument that the bears were moving into the area because of the drought. “We had droughts in the 70s, 80s and 90s, worse than this, and not had this problem. A bunch of bears were allowed to procreate and come down to the Valley to get easy pickings. “If my cows were allowed to run down Main Street and munch on everybody’s lawn, there would be a lot of complaints,” Godecke said. Settelmeyer said she was concerned about the safety of her grandchildren and livestock. “I’m not in favor of killing anything, but you have to be able to protect our children,” she said. “Anytime a bear goes after something that has a heartbeat, you’re in danger.” Bettyarlene Rodal, who lives along Foothill Road, said she joined the Bear League for training and so she could find a peaceful solution to the problem. She said she’d taken three calls Thursday morning from residents reporting bears on their property. “Lethal forms (of management) are scary,” Rodal said. “If you do have to kill a bear, you better know how to do it.” Rodal said communities where residents used bear-proof trash containers practically eliminated the problem of nuisance bears. “They’ll resort to being back to natural bears when they realize people are not nice to be around,” she said. Commissioner David Brady said he supported the bear-proof trash container ordinance, but was concerned that the towns of Minden and Gardnerville were exempt. “Almost every night in Minden, three to five trash containers are overturned,” Brady said. He said the town refers residents to the Department of Wildlife Web site which offers tips on protecting property. “In light of what’s transpiring of late, that’s not good enough,” said Brady, a Minden resident. “I think we need a more substantive response.” Since Lake Tahoe residents have voluntarily embraced bear-proof trash containers, hungry bears have moved to Carson Valley. Wildlife biologist Carl Lackey told commissioners as they deal with the problem in steps, the bears will migrate. “The bear problem at Kingsbury was much more extensive 8 to 10 years ago before the introduction of the bear-proof trash containers,” Lackey said. “If the containers had been introduced all at once, that would have dealt with a lot of the problem. Because Douglas County is doing it in steps, the bear population will continue to move to areas with more easily accessible food.” Under the ordinance, a violation can only occur if there is documentation of a bear getting into improperly secured trash. A bear-proof trash container is required after a bear has been caught raiding the same residence twice in a two-year period. A bear-proof collection bin must be installed within 90 days of incident. If there is another incident within two years, the party will be cited and if convicted, receive a fine of not less than $100.

New, less expensive bear cans available: Containers to help reduce bear access to trash

The BEAR League has gotten its hands on a trash container that not only keeps the critters out, but is also pretty cheap. The yellow bear cans will soon be for sale by the league for $70 and have a unique screw-on lid. Volunteers are busy fitting handles on the specialized containers, and some will be ready for sale by Memorial Day. Previously, the only bear-proof trash containers sold for $800 to $1,200. This news comes as many wildlife organizations this week mark Bear Awareness Week. But few would argue Tahoe residents aren’t aware of bears in the basin. “I’m proud of the residents in Tahoe,” said Ann Bryant, executive director of the league. “I think most residents are very cooperative. It’s the visitors that don’t get it.” Last year, an incident in which three bears were killed on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe after reportedly vandalizing a vacation cabin galvanized the community. The league hopes the cans will help with the growing problem of bears getting into people’s trash and becoming less “wild” and more accustomed to people. It is illegal in Placer, El Dorado and Douglas counties to leave your garbage where a bear can get to it. Bryant said the BEAR League came across the containers in a community in New Jersey, and have tested them extensively too see if they keep bears out. The only problem is that the cans must be secured to something solid like a tree. Otherwise the bear will pick it up like a picnic basket and take off with it, she said. More than 300 league volunteers are busy fitting the cans with handles so that South Tahoe Refuse workers will have an easier time emptying them. “We’re enthused about them, but we need to see how they work,” said Jeanne Lear, human resources manager for the refuse company. Lear also pointed out the cans have to be secured, and can only be used in the summer because the lids tend to freeze to the can in the winter. Some claim the refuse company’s early pickup schedule deters homeowners from waiting until trash day to put out their trash. Many put their trash out the night before, allowing bears to rummage through during the night. Lear said the schedule is required to avoid traffic in South Shore, and that bears will adjust to whatever time the trash truck comes, no matter how late it is. “They are not intimidated by daylight anymore,” Lear said. “I think it’s just the pervasiveness of how many humans are within the basin now.” The company starts its route at 5 a.m. and completes it around 1 p.m. Trash companies on the North Shore do not start until 8 a.m., according to Bryant. When bears are given food or have access to trash, that indirectly endangers the bear’s life, said Bryant. The bear is tamer, and more likely to approach people, which is often construed as aggression and a reason to kill them. There has never been a documented case of a black bear killing a human in California or Nevada.

Nevada expands bear control efforts

CARSON CITY (AP) – Overwhelmed by hundreds of calls about hungry bears prowling around homes for food, the Nevada Department of Wildlife is turning to local governments for help in getting people to stop leaving out trash that draws the bears. Ken Mayer, the agency’s director, told the state Board of Examiners on Tuesday that meetings are being scheduled this month with officials in Douglas and Washoe counties, where the state’s bear problem is the worst because the counties are on the eastern edge of the rugged Sierra Nevada. “When we build in bear country or a wildland habitat, there is that wildland-urban interface,” Mayer said after the board meeting. “It’s not like living in Los Angeles.” The department had about 400 calls about nuisance bears in the two counties in July and may get nearly that many this month. Problems have ranged from tipped-over garbage cans to black bears breaking into homes and raiding refrigerators and cupboards. Because of the increasing number of bear encounters, Mayer said his big concern is the potential for an attack on people. He noted that an 11-year-old boy was killed by a 300-pound black bear in Utah this summer. Mayer added that some of the Nevada bears are living so well off garbage that they’re reaching grizzly-bear weights of 650 to 700 pounds – and in some cases aren’t bothering to hibernate. Options that Mayer wants to discuss with the counties include more public education – and, as a last resort, ordinance enforcement to ensure trash, if left out, is in bear-proof garbage cans. “It takes a community to train a bear,” he said. “We’ve had great success in communities that decide it’s in their best interest and the bears’ best interests to clean up the attractive nuisance” created by trash. Around Lake Tahoe, in the Sierra on the Nevada-California line, there are an estimated 250 to 500 bears. Along the east side of the Sierra, which is extremely dry this summer, human-bear encounters “are as bad as I’ve ever seen,” Mayer said. Options that Mayer wants to discuss with the counties include more public education – and, as a last resort, ordinance enforcement to ensure trash, if left out, is in bear-proof garbage cans. “It takes a community to train a bear,” he said. “We’ve had great success in communities that decide it’s in their best interest and the bears’ best interests to clean up the attractive nuisance” created by trash. Some area residents express concern that a bear that can’t get into a garbage can might try to get into a house or garage. While those incidents have occurred, Mayer said they’re “extremely unusual.” Typically, a bear will leave a bear-proofed neighborhood after a few days and look for food elsewhere, he added. Other options that could be discussed include a “neighborhood watch” system – both to report bears and to report homeowners who disregard the trash rules. Mayer, who got an OK from the Board of Examiners to ask legislators for $40,315 in emergency funding for the agency’s bear control efforts, also said the counties could be asked to help cover the program costs. A possible long-term change could involve new NDOW permits for bear-hunting in outlying areas, away from any houses. Such permits aren’t currently issued in Nevada.

Incline Village continues to struggle with black bears, trash

Since April, the Placer County Sheriff's Department has received about seven calls about bears on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. To the north, the Truckee Police Department has had 15 so far this year. But the Washoe County Sheriff's Office received eight bear calls over Memorial Day weekend alone in Incline Village, and at least half of those were trash-related, according to a spokesman. Despite comments from wildlife advocates, locals fed up with trash spills, and even a 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal, Incline Village residents and decision-makers are still struggling to come to a consensus on how to manage their waste so it doesn't attract wildlife and create conflicts. There is no question that when bears and other wildlife learn they can get food from humans, they come to depend on it. But local government has been hesitant to get involved. "The County has not considered a county-wide bear/animal proof trash receptacle ordinance because there are many areas of our county that do not have animal problems," said Washoe County District 1 Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler in an email. Berkbigler said that although the county doesn't have a wildlife-proof trash receptacle requirement, the Incline Village General Improvement District does have the power to do so. Incline Village is an unincorporated part of Washoe County in Nevada, so a general improvement district handles things like water, trash, and sewer. According to a previous North Lake Tahoe Bonanza article, state law allows a general improvement district to "make and enforce all necessary regulations for the removal of sewage, garbage and other refuse." District General Manger Steve Pinkerton said that most of the discussions surrounding mandatory bear-proof receptacles predate his tenure, which began in 2014. He also said that tat the time there was not a community consensus on a path forward. A COMPLICATED PAST Beginning in 2005, the district began charging fees for trash violations and added bear boxes as well as a requirement to keep trash contained. The fees ranged from $25 to $250 for violations, according to district documents. Fees were raised to range from $100 to $1,000 by March 2007, and violators were also given the option of purchasing bear boxes in lieu of paying a fee, but active enforcement didn't begin until 2013 when the trash hotline began receiving a high-volume of calls. According to district documents, bear conflicts in 2012 rose 82 percent over the previous year, and 95 percent of all bear reports to the Nevada Department of Wildlife in 2012 for Washoe County were trash-related. In a 2013 letter to the district's board, Nevada Department of Wildlife Director Tony Wasley wrote, "NDOW has long been a proponent of more stringent regulation of trash management due to the issues it creates with human-bear conflicts … For this reason we welcome and support the idea of mandating the use of bear resistant containers (BRCs) for the Incline Village area." An NDOW Black Bear report shows that 97 bears were handled in Western Nevada in 2013, with 141 in 2014, 121 in 2015, and 71 in 2016. The general improvement district began using volunteers to inspect trash bins in 2013, and in 2014 switched to employee-conducted inspections. Homeowners were granted one warning before being charged a fee of $500 for the first violation of the trash ordinance and $999 for a second violation. According to district documents, the total number of reported trash violations in 2013 was 180, and in 2014 that number jumped to 223. The district board considered mandatory wildlife-resistant trash containers in September and October 2013, but no decision was made since some were concerned about higher costs. Aside from the cost of the wildlife-proof container, Waste Management charges $27.97 per month for trash service with a 64-gallon wildlife cart, compared with $23.01 per month for trash service with a regular 64-gallon wildlife cart. At its March 2014 meeting, the board again discussed mandatory wildlife-proof trash bins but voted 5-0 to table the discussion for another date. At the time, only 33 percent of residents had them according to a staff presentation. Reports of waste violations dropped from 223 in 2014 to 82 in 2015, but some residents expressed concern that the drop was due to a lack of enforcement rather than improved trash containment. At a recent board meeting in May of this year, Incline Village resident Carolyn Stark, who also volunteers for the BEAR League, said during public comment that she believed the district's zero-tolerance policy was no longer being implemented. She cited records she said showed that 67 percent of recent trash violations recorded by the district did not result in fines. "Unfortunately IVGID's trash policies and responses to garbage spills changed last year, and zero (tolerance) policy is no longer implemented or in effect." Stark said. "As an example, between April 1st of this year to May 21st, 30 trash violations have been recorded. Four were fined, five bear-resistant carts were ordered, one is waiting for a park-style dumpster, and 20 were waived or given warnings. That's 67 percent with no action taken." THE NEW CONTRACT The board unanimously approved a new contract with trash services provider Waste Management in July 2016 with several different price and size options. Incline Village residents were previously required to set their trash on the curb in plastic bags or in containers they purchased themselves, but under the new contract property owners were required to switch to the common rolling cart containers provided by Waste Management. The agreement included mandatory wildlife-resistant dumpsters, carts and park-style dumpsters (which are also wildlife-resistant) for commercial properties, but not for residential properties. An option to rent or purchase wildlife-resistant containers was included for residences, as well a $300 rebate for installing a bear shed. HOW OTHERS MANAGE LIVING IN BEAR COUNTRY Incline Village isn't the only community living with bears, but it is one of only a handful without local government regulations mandating the use of wildlife-resistant trash containers. On the other side of the lake, in eastern Placer County, a bear ordinance mandating bear resistant garbage can enclosures has been in effect since 2001. The ordinance requires "the owner, lessee, or person exercising physical control of any private property, including businesses" to install bear-resistant trash enclosures when building any new residence or within 30 days of notification by Placer County Environmental Health. The county may give 30 days notice to install a trash enclosure if an inspection has been determined to a "bear access problem." El Dorado County has an ordinance similar to Placer County's. It requires new residential units within Silver Fork, Tahoe Truckee Unified, and Lake Tahoe Unified School Districts to construct bear-proof enclosures, as well as sites that have been deemed by the county to be problem areas. A 2010-ordinance in Teton County, Idaho mandates that residences and businesses in designated "bear-conflict zones," which are identified as those "in close proximity to known bear occupied habitat or regular travel corridors and or seasonal bear-use areas." The city of Durango, Colo., as well as the city of Aspen, Colo., have both enacted similar ordinances.

Catherine Cecchi: It’s springtime, be bear aware

As the days get longer and temperatures rise, our local black bears are becoming more and more active. While some bears that have learned to "supplement" their diet with human food from garbage cans and Dumpsters may not have hibernated during this mild winter, many bears are just beginning to wake up from their wintertime slumber and they are hungry. Bears are typically very active in their search for food in the springtime, and at Clean Tahoe we've seen a dramatic increase in animal-in-trash incidents in recent weeks. This is a terrible situation for the bears as well as the neighbors in an area where a bear has been feasting on human food waste. A bear that has frequent access to human food will likely lose its natural fear of humans and also may damage property in its quest to reach the food source, oftentimes resulting in a death sentence for the animal — "a fed bear is a dead bear." Here's a few tips for ensuring bears don't get into your garbage: Put all food waste in bear-resistant twist-lid cans (available at Scotty's Hardware at the Y) or metal bear bins. If you have regular trash cans, keep food waste inside your house (not your garage) until the morning of trash pick-up. South Tahoe Refuse recently pushed back residential trash pick-up time by 2 hours so you don't have to put trash out the night before pick-up. If you own a vacation rental or second home, consider installing a metal bear bin — it's worth the investment! Find options at: http://www.clean-tahoe.org/be-bear-aware. Keep dumpsters locked at all times. "Locking" a dumpster can be as simple as sliding a carabiner clip into the hole securing the lock bar in place. If you see a trash problem in your neighborhood, please report it to the Clean Tahoe Program at 530-544-4210. There are ordinances in the City and the County prohibiting animal access to garbage – we will post a Warning Notice at the property, and recommend a citation for repeat offenders. We should all do our part to keep our community clean and protect local wildlife! Catherine Cecchi is executive director of The Clean Tahoe Program.