Bear issues: South Lake Tahoe entities explore issues surrounding wildlife & trash
When trash is left out around South Lake Tahoe, bears come sniffing. Soon after they’re knocking on doors, climbing on decks, and popping heads through doggie door looking for food.
Trash and bear encounters go hand-in-hand in the Lake Tahoe basin.
Local officials note most residents are great about properly storing their trash, yet it’s still a problem, especially when regarding enforcement.
A new ordinance, crafted by the South Lake Tahoe Solid Waste Joint Powers Authority (JPA), would require a mandatory box installation on the third offense, and a fine on second offense.
The South Lake Tahoe City Council addressed the ordinance at its Tuesday, Aug. 18, meeting by providing feedback for the South Tahoe Solid Waste Joint Powers Association.
The JPA hosts three members already with bear ordinances. Douglas County in Nevada, El Dorado County in California, and the city of South Lake Tahoe possess similar ordinances, but differ on enforcement.
South Lake Tahoe Councilwoman JoAnn Conner, who represents the city on the JPA board, said Tuesday that the ordinance in question would streamline enforcement guidelines in all three South Tahoe area jurisdictions.
“There has always been an issue of uniformity,” Conner said.
The difference between the proposed JPA ordinance and the ones El Dorado and Douglas counties have are largely enforcement-related.
Conner said while there are concerns that everyone will be affected, the proposed ordinance primarily addresses repeat offenders.
“We believe this will be a big enough hammer that they will be required to put in a bear box,” Conner said.
The ordinance may also include a no- or low-interest loan program, which would allow people wanting to install a bear box to make payments through either a property tax bill or garbage bill.
Conner said the option has been deferred at the recommendation of the JPA’s attorney until details can be hammered out.
South Tahoe Refuse, the area’s solid waste collector, supports the ordinance and sees it as an extension of what it already has done.
John Marchini, co-owner of South Tahoe Refuse, said his crews typically pick up scattered trash between 20 and 30 times per day on collection days.
Marchini added that his company started taking photos of such events and are logging it.
The trash hauler additionally changed its beginning trash pickup start time from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Council members, including Austin Sass, offered reservations about the ordinance, including initial proposals about mandatory boxes being required for new or remodeled homes.
Sass suggested instead that first step throughout the community should be bear-resistant containers, not bear boxes that can cost at least $1,200.
Joe Stanton, a South Lake Tahoe resident, supports the overall idea of the streamlined ordinance though he had concerns about mandatory bear boxes.
“I think it’s a very heavy handed approach and unreasonable,” Stanton said.
Conner, who likewise doesn’t support a mandatory policy, said new or remodeled homes should only comply with the ordinance, installing bear boxes after the third offense.
Another concern was thinking ahead, especially if bears and other wildlife adapt to harder-to-get-to trash containers.
Marchini said animal adaptation remains a valid concern.
“Bears are figuring things out. We’ve tried a different number of combinations for containers and they keep getting in,” Marchini said. “It’s all about how well we manage our trash.”