Animal column: The bears are back |

Animal column: The bears are back

Niki Congero
Hopeful Henry
Tribune Opinion Columnist

Dear Henry,

I’m new to Tahoe and a bear just moved into the basement of our house. What do I do?

Thank you,

Scared of the Bear

Dear Sacred of the Bear,

First, welcome to the lake! Second, don’t be scared of bears. Our bears (black and brown) need not to be feared, but they do need our respect.

Bears might be cute, and when you see them it is very exciting. Give them space and make sure they stay wild. Bears don’t like to be watched; they like their peace. If they know you are watching they will often move away from you.

If you run into a bear in your yard, do not run. Be aggressive and alert your dominance by standing tall and making noise — like banging pots and pans together and shouting loudly.

Never get between a mother bear and her cubs! If you see a bear with cubs slowly walk away and make a loud noise. If a bear attempts to get away, do not block the bear’s escape route. Bears will often climb trees if frightened and usually won’t come down until humans and dogs are gone.

You need to bear-proof your property. Simple things can help keep your property bear free. Garbage is a big problem when it comes to attracting bears. Purchase a “Bear Box” for garbage; this is a garbage container that is bear proof. They can be costly so think of sharing one with a neighbor. If you cannot get a bear box then keep all garbage inside your garage in cans with lids securely attached. Also keep those garbage cans clean and deodorize with bleach or ammonia (bears hate the smell of ammonia).

You can additionally buy garbage cans from local hardware stores that have bear proof tops. Wait to put trash out until collection day. Don’t leave trash or any food items in your car. Harvest fruit off trees as soon as it is ripe and pick up all fallen fruit as soon as it falls. And do not hang bird feeders from March-November; bears love them. Keep BBQ grills clean. Keep your pets inside. Securely block access to hibernation areas like crawl spaces under decks and buildings. Don’t leave any scented non-food products outside such as suntan lotion, insect repellent, soap or candles. Keep doors and windows closed and locked. Scents from inside lure bears.

Lastly, do not feed the bears! A bear’s diet consists of berries, plants, nuts, roots, honey, honeycomb, insects, larvae, carrion and small mammals.

Now, regarding your immediate issue — the bear currently residing in your basement — I recommend you call the Bear Preservation League (The Bear League). You can reach them on their 24 hotline number at 530-525-7297. They will be able to give you recommendations for how to remove the bear and some referrals for companies that can seal up the entrance the bear has made into your basement.

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, or

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