Bear activity: normal for this summer
Wildlife officials and law enforcement warn residents every year not to feed stray bears.
But no matter how urgent the message, no matter how many times it’s repeated and no matter how many citizens listen and do the right thing, some people still don’t get the message, said Carl Lackey, a Nevada Department of Wildlife biologist.
People will continue to feed bears as long as there’s no penalty against doing so, Lackey said.
“People can leave their garbage out, and if a bear comes up and eats it and breaks or trashes something, there’s no retribution for those people,” Lackey said. “It’s unfortunate because you’ve got people out there feeding bears on purpose and their neighbors’ houses are getting broken into.”
Douglas County is the only Nevada county that cites citizens for feeding bears, Lackey said.
Under the law, if a bear in Douglas County feeds on a citizen’s garbage, that person(s) receives a warning. If it happens a second time within two years, then either a fine or a requirement to purchase a bear-proof trash container is imposed.
It’s the only law of its kind in Nevada, Lackey said.
Lackey said bear activity this summer in the Incline area has been normal. He has had to deal with a dozen or so bears so far this year.
Bear activity in the Incline area generally is a lot slower than other parts of the basin, Lackey said. The reasoning for that is simple.
“Basically, there are fewer bears in Incline,” he said. “Also, people in Incline might be better at (not feeding the bears).”
Sgt. Carl Barnett of the Incline Village Substation said, on average, his office receives about 12-to-15 bear-related calls per day. Eighty percent of those calls result in actual bear sightings, he said.
“When that happens, we try our best to run it off into the woods,” Barnett. “We basically want to make them afraid of people. We’ll yell at them or make a loud noise or shoot them with a live bear round, which is like a rubber bullet. We do that so every time they see a human they get afraid.”
Barnett and Lackey said the main concern of any bear-related incident is human safety. In the event a bear endangers a human life, it can be euthanized.
“You never want to kill a bear, but sometimes it’s necessary,” he said. “Our policy is we’ll do it if a bear breaks into a constant habit of aggressively seeking human food or is being aggressive toward humans.”
Of 74 Nevada bear cases last year, four were euthanized, Lackey said. So far in 2007, two bears have been killed, he said.
BEAR League Executive Director Ann Bryant said bear deaths by way of car crashes are more than triple on the California side this summer compared to last. At a record low, five bears were hit by cars last summer. This year the number is up closer to 20, Bryant estimated.
The increase in accidents could be attributed to the number of bears displaced by not only the Angora fire in South Lake Tahoe but also because of the lightning fires last week throughout Tahoe National Forest, Bryant said.
Bryant said residents should take typical precautions to protect their homes from bears — secure garbage, remove food from unoccupied homes, make doors and windows inaccessible — and never, ever feed the bears.