Bear accustomed to trash killed |

Bear accustomed to trash killed

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

With dry winters making food harder to find in the woods, bears at the Lake Tahoe Basin have become brazen about going for garbage, even during the daytime.

A 400-pound male bear, spotted going for garbage by swimmers on the beach at Zephyr Cove Resort Wednesday afternoon, was shot and killed by wildlife officials.

Wearing a collared tracking device, the bear was identified as having repeatedly stalked businesses and homes searching for food. “He just wasn’t learning,” said Carl Lackey, a Nevada Division of Wildlife biologist who took down the animal.

The problem may be worsening. So far this spring and summer, Lackey has trapped and released at least seven problem bears. Last year, wildlife officials responded to dozens of complaints about problem bears, but only one was killed.

“It’s very busy,” he said. “This is the third year in a row we’ve had below-average precipitation and bears are coming out of the woods looking for food.”

It’s not just the dry weather that’s caused an increase in bear activity, but careless garbage disposal throughout the basin, Lackey said. Bears teach their cubs to forage through garbage if it’s accessible.

“It’s a learned behavior (that’s) not going away until the Tahoe Basin is bear-proofed,” he said.

Killing aggressive bears is not something officials like doing, agency spokesman Chris Healy said.

“We go to great trouble to make sure we don’t have to do it,” he said.

One of the biggest problems the agency has is that humans don’t protect garbage from bears, Healy said. When that happens, bears become more common in neighborhoods.

“If they start displaying behavior that’s bold to the point of being aggressive, we have no other recourse” but to kill them, Healy said.

Authorities responded to three bear calls on Thursday

The first incident happened around 1 p.m. behind Raley’s at the “Y” when a 400-pound male bear was found rooting through a Dumpster.

“It was right in the heart of a neighborhood,” said Ann Bryant, executive director of the Tahoe BEAR League. “Kids were teasing him (and) he couldn’t get out. It was a nightmare.”

The bear didn’t escape the neighborhood until 11:30 p.m.

“Once the kids went home we got him down,” Bryant said. “He ran into the woods and was just fine. He had beautiful shiny black fur and a blonde muzzle. He looked like he just came back from the South Lake Tahoe Bear Salon.”

Around dusk the same day, law enforcement shut down traffic on Highway 50 after someone discovered a bear up a tree at Zephyr Cove Resort. Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies fired rubber bullets to get it out of the tree.

“The bear did come down but he went up another tree,” said Douglas County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Bob Rudnick. “He was never aggressive so they allowed the bear to remain and later the bear did come down and meandered off where it needed to go.”

At 11 p.m. on Mt. Rose Highway near Incline Village, a man driving a Jeep hit and killed a large male bear. The man broke his wrist and totaled his Jeep.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or

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