Department of Fish and Game warns of unwanted bear encounters | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Department of Fish and Game warns of unwanted bear encounters

Submitted to the Tribune

Tribune file photoA mother black bear surveys the forest.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The California Department of Fish and Game reminds people enjoying the Lake Tahoe Basin to take precautions to avoid black bear encounters.

This area is prime black bear habitat, and many of these wild animals are not afraid of humans. Recently, a bear was killed after a man in his tent was injured as the bear tried to break in.

Bears are constantly searching for food that humans inadvertently make obtainable to them. It is important for everyone to avoid creating odors that attract bears. They are attracted not only to food but also perfume, cologne and containers that once held food.

“A bear’s fate is almost always sealed once it associates humans with food,” said Marc Kenyon, DFG statewide bear program coordinator. “It’s unfortunate when a bear becomes a threat and has to be killed because people either haven’t learned how to appropriately store food and trash, or simply don’t care.”

Last year DFG staff logged more than 5,200 hours handling black bear nuisance calls in the Lake Tahoe region alone. Bears’ attempts to obtain human food cause the majority of public safety incidents involving bears.

California’s growing black bear population is now estimated at more than 30,000. DFG biologists have ramped-up staff and study efforts to learn more about urban black bear trends while providing increased public response throughout the Tahoe Basin. Black bears are located in most of the state where suitable habitat exists and bear-human encounters are not isolated to wilderness settings.

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DFG wardens and biologists respond to numerous wildlife feeding issues throughout the state. Access to human food or garbage, whether it is overflowing from a campground or residential dumpster or in the form of snacks in a tent, is the most common bear attractant. When wild animals are allowed to feed on human food and garbage, they lose their natural ways – often resulting in death for the animal.

Feeding wildlife or allowing wildlife access to human food provides unnatural food sources, habituates animals to humans and can change animal behavior from foraging for food in the wild to relying on human food sources in or near urban areas, which can lead to bears breaking into cars or houses to seek out food. It is also illegal to intentionally feed wildlife in California.

DFG’s Keep Me Wild campaign was developed in part to address the increasing number of conflicts between black bears and people. The campaign provides important tips for living and recreating safely in bear habitat, and advice on what to do when encountering these wild animals. Please visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/bear.html for more information.