Bears are South Lake Tahoe resident’s newest house guests, agencies work to keep them safe

SLTPD has gotten over 70 calls about bears since residents were able to repopulate the area.
Mike Peron/ Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Phones are ringing non stop at Lake Tahoe Bear League’s office as more residents make their way home to bears that have been displaced from the Caldor Fire.

Executive Director of the Bear League, Ann Bryant, was busy helping a family of bears see their way out of a local residents home early this morning; just one of the very many calls she’s been on in hopes to help both the bears and humans of the lake adjust to this difficult transition.

The lack of people in town and the increasing number of bears created the perfect party for bears to feast.
Mike Peron/ Tahoe Daily Tribune

“The areas that were evacuated, there were no people, there were no dogs barking,” said Bryant. “People were evacuated in a hurry. They didn’t even lock their doors or their windows.”

Due to the quick moving pace of the situation, many left food, trash, and other desirable objects for bears sitting out in their homes, unsure of when they would return. In the forest, bears and other wildlife animals have been escaping towards South Lake Tahoe for weeks to avoid the quickly growing fire.

The lack of people in town and the increasing number of bears created the perfect party for bears to feast, according to Bryant. But the bears are just like the residents of the basin: they only want a safe place to eat and rest their paws.

“They came into town and adjusted as quickly as they could,” said Bryant.

This normal occurrence of bears moving to safer grounds is something that residents must learn to live with, and there are many solutions that keep both the bears and humans safe and happy.

Bryant recommended that if there is a bear in your home, to always leave their entrance paths clear in order for the bear to leave the way it came. Additionally, any loud noises will help scare the bear away. Proper disposal of trash, as well as locking windows and doors can also prevent bear break-ins.

Bears have been able to break-in to unsecured homes.
Provided California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

Bryant said that electrical mats are also a helpful tactic in scaring bears. The mat doesn’t hurt them, but hopefully reminds them not to return to the property.

“They don’t get mad,” said Bryant. “They get scared.”

Bryant said the league has been able to loan out mats to residents around the city, and so far it’s had as positive effect.

South Lake Tahoe Police Department Lieutenant Travis Cabral said the department has gotten over 70 calls about bears since residents were able to repopulate the area. The number does not reflect the amount of times they were called back to the same place. The department is known for their work with helping bears leave homes, and Bryant said the Bear League works with them often when dealing with incidents.

South Lake PD, the Bear League, and the UC Davis Wildlife Disaster team has been working to help protect both the bears and humans of the area, and have found that the community has been equally supportive in helping the bears resettle in the area.

“People are very tolerant….We’re all just trying to make do with what has just happened and what is happening with these fires,” said Bryant.

She remarked that one of the shining lights through the tunnel of darkness that Caldor created is how supportive the people of the community have been, and how patient they are with their new house guests.

“I would like to compliment the Tahoe people,” said Bryant. “The second homeowners and the people that live here permanently, on how amazing they’ve been through this, how strong they’ve been, how resilient… I’m so grateful.”

Resilience has been a key theme for the Tahoe people and wildlife as the Caldor Fire finally begins to get back in control of firefighters, and Bryant said that if there was any time for residents and animals alike to come together, it’s now.

If you encounter a bear in your home and need assistance, call the Bear League’s emergency number at 530-525-PAWS (7297), or South Lake PD at (530) 542-6100.

If you see or suspect an animal has been burned or injured, contact the UC Davis Wildlife Disaster Network, which is working on the front lines to save injured animals. Their phone number is 1-800-942-6459.

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