The bears are back in Tahoe (opinion) |

The bears are back in Tahoe (opinion)

Niki Congero
Tribune Opinion Columnist
Bear is a big German shepherd/malamute mix. He is 2-3 years old and is good with other dogs. He would love a forever home where he can play fetch and tug. Please come visit Bear at The El Dorado County Animal Services, 530-573-7925. Don’t forget all animals come spayed or neutered, with all vaccinations and a microchip! For spay-neuter services and other support, call the Lake Tahoe Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at 530-542-2857.
Courtesy Photo |

Dear Henry,

I’m a local and have noticed the bears are back! I’ve already seen cubs and there have been a lot more sightings in my neighborhood compared to last year.

Could you cover some bear safety tips for new locals and visitors to the area?



This certainly is an appropriate time of year to go over bear safety.

Black bears are very common in this area and have become habituated to human food and garbage. While the chances of being injured are extremely low, meeting a bear is more likely because they no longer have a strong fear of us. With four years of practically no winters, this is the first year in some time that the bears went into hibernation. Now they are starting to wake up and head down the mountain looking to visit some of their favorite eating spots.

Don’t make your house one of those spots! Feeding bears is illegal and increases the potential for property damage and the death of a bear.

You can help the well-being of bears and their habitat by simply following a few basic guidelines listed below:

• Bird feeders have played a very serious role in attracting bears into mountain-town sites. Take your feeder down in the summer. If you must have a feeder, wait until late November before filling it with seed; and don’t forget to take it down before the bears come out in spring, usually by early March. Also, be sure to store your bird seed inside.

• Do not store garbage outside or in your vehicle. Dispose of your trash in bear-proof containers, if available. Do not overfill or stack garbage outside of the container. Be sure that the latches engage after closing the door. If bear-proof containers are not available, store your garbage in your garage or similar structure until trash day. Put your trash out on the morning it will be picked up, not before. Wooden garbage can shelters are not bear proof. If not placed inside a metal bear-proof container, add Pinesol to the inside of every bag of garbage before putting it out. Don’t leave garbage or food in vehicles. It is illegal to allow a bear access to garbage.

• Keep your compost free of meat and meat byproducts. It is important to limit what we place in our compost heaps. Avoid placing fish, meat, bones, egg shells, dairy products or fruit into your compost. Adding some lime to your compost can also speed up the decomposition and reduce the smell.

• Keep your barbecue clean. The smell of a juicy steak can permeate the air and attract more than envious glances from non-barbecuing neighbors. These same smells can attract bears to your deck once you head to bed. When you’ve finished your feast, burn the food off of the grill, or at least clean the barbecue carefully. Also, if you store your barbecue outside, use a cover as this will reduce the smell emanating from it. Keeping your patio door closed when cooking indoors also helps to reduce the smell of food in the air.

If you encounter a bear in your yard, do not run from him; this may stimulate his instinct to chase. Let the bear know this is your territory and he doesn’t belong there. Don’t be afraid or submissive. Yell at him, bang pots and pans, throw rocks.

Make him think you are a bigger bear than he is!

If you encounter a bear in the woods, this is his territory — but he’s happy to share.

Again, don’t run. Let him know you are there, make eye contact but don’t stare. Pick up small children who may run, and keep them calm. If you are walking your dog make sure he is leashed, pick up your pup if he or she is small. Appreciate the experience and move on with respect and self-confidence.

Thank you to the Bear League for providing this useful information. If you have further questions about bear safety or have an issue with a bear on your property, please call them at 530-525-PAWS.

Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit SocietySPCA, or

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