Bear group claims successful gathering
The big Bear Preservation League meeting at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe on Saturday was a rousing success, even though no bears bothered to show up.
That was OK – the bruins in question are still in hibernation. By the time they wake up, by early April or so, things should be in place to ensure a safe habitat for Lake Tahoe’s largest moving natural resources.
“I was very encouraged by the turnout, and I’m very excited about what’s in the future for bears,” said Linda Brown, a founding member of the fledgling Bear Preservation League.
“There has been wonderful community response,” she said. “We enrolled more than 30 people today, and we had some good input from the Department of Fish and Game.”
Brown, Ann Bryant and Kathy Tavernier joined forces in August of last year to form the Bear Preservation League. The women teamed up in response to an incident in Homewood, where a mother bear and her cub were destroyed by the California Department of Fish and Game.
Brown, who lives in Northstar, and the other two women, who live in Homewood, became determined that no other bears would be killed.
“We consider them our bears,” Brown said. “They have distinctive appearances and personalities, and they have just as much right to live here as we do. In fact, they were here first. They are a part of Tahoe, and should be protected.”
The problem is this: Bears, in their rush to put on pounds for the winter, will go to great lengths to obtain free food. This often includes raiding garbage cans and even breaking into sheds, automobiles and homes, if they smell food. If a resident reports property damage caused by bears, the Department of Fish and Game is required by law to attempt to trap the guilty animal.
This usually means that the bear is killed, since it is difficult to relocate problem animals.
There were at least four bears destroyed by Fish and Game in 1998, and founding members of the Bear Preservation League vowed that it would never happen again.
“Unfortunately, it’s the human animal that has not been very responsible,” Brown said. “There are alternatives to killing bears.”
The League’s strategy begins with education. The goal is to teach as many people as possible how to dispose of garbage in a way that will not attract the bruins.
“We have a people problem, not a bear problem,” said Cheryl Millham, executive director of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. “There are many things one can do to discourage bears from damaging your property.”
The League is in the process of forming a volunteer response team – several people signed up for such duty at Saturday’s meeting. People in several different geographical areas will take calls from anyone who has had a problem with bears. These volunteers will act as intermediaries, so that Fish and Game will not be forced to remove the animal.
The League will also work with Fish and Game to try and prevent problems before they happen.
“When a person calls about a bear, we will dispatch two people to check on the situation,” Brown said. “The incident in Homewood, where two bears were killed, was a case of miscommunication. They didn’t even destroy the right bear.”
Eventually, the League hopes to work with officials in Nevada, which also has its share of bear problems. The Nevada Division of Wildlife is more inclined than its California counterparts to try and relocate a problem bear.
“There’s law, and then there’s policy,” Brown said. “Killing bears in California is a policy, and it’s one were are out to change.”
Information about the Bear Preservation League: (530) 525-PAWS.
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