Douglas County moves forward to curtail hungry bears
MINDEN — Douglas County made a move Thursday to send hungry black bears packing by unanimously approving the first reading of an ordinance that would require tamper-proof trash containers at homes already hit twice by nuisance animals.
Lisa Granahan, assistant to the county manager, pointed out that if adopted, the ordinance is not mandatory for all residents.
“Only after two violations within two years, does the ordinance require installation of a bear-proof container,” she said. And the towns of Minden and Gardnerville are exempt.
She also pointed out that the law has been in effect at the Tahoe basin for several years and to date, no one has been required to purchase the trash container, which costs from $200 to $700.
The first reading passed following about an hour’s discussion on the black bear problem that exploded in Carson Valley over the summer.
In July and August, Nevada Department of Wildlife dispatchers received 4,792 calls about bears from Douglas and Washoe county residents, up from 3,704 calls in 2006. The number of department responses doubled from 207 in July to 408 in August, according to figures presented to commissioners.
Those statistics did not stop the board from refusing to hand over more money to the department, which is responsible for managing the black bear population and answering nuisance calls.
Ken Mayer, director of the department, told commissioners costs in Washoe and Douglas counties increased about 50 percent this year to an estimated $167,385.
He did not request a specific figure from commissioners, but earlier, state officials asked the county for $50,000.
During public comment, ranchers Frank Godecke and Patricia Settelmeyer placed the responsibility for the increased nuisance black bears with state officials.
“I don’t think the Department of Wildlife has done the job managing the population,” Godecke said. “For 50 years, you’ve let bears procreate and now there are more bears than habitat to support them.”
He dismissed an argument that the bears were moving into the area because of the drought.
“We had droughts in the 70s, 80s and 90s, worse than this, and not had this problem. A bunch of bears were allowed to procreate and come down to the Valley to get easy pickings.
“If my cows were allowed to run down Main Street and munch on everybody’s lawn, there would be a lot of complaints,” Godecke said.
Settelmeyer said she was concerned about the safety of her grandchildren and livestock.
“I’m not in favor of killing anything, but you have to be able to protect our children,” she said. “Anytime a bear goes after something that has a heartbeat, you’re in danger.”
Bettyarlene Rodal, who lives along Foothill Road, said she joined the Bear League for training and so she could find a peaceful solution to the problem. She said she’d taken three calls Thursday morning from residents reporting bears on their property.
“Lethal forms (of management) are scary,” Rodal said. “If you do have to kill a bear, you better know how to do it.”
Rodal said communities where residents used bear-proof trash containers practically eliminated the problem of nuisance bears.
“They’ll resort to being back to natural bears when they realize people are not nice to be around,” she said.
Commissioner David Brady said he supported the bear-proof trash container ordinance, but was concerned that the towns of Minden and Gardnerville were exempt.
“Almost every night in Minden, three to five trash containers are overturned,” Brady said.
He said the town refers residents to the Department of Wildlife Web site which offers tips on protecting property.
“In light of what’s transpiring of late, that’s not good enough,” said Brady, a Minden resident. “I think we need a more substantive response.”
Since Lake Tahoe residents have voluntarily embraced bear-proof trash containers, hungry bears have moved to Carson Valley.
Wildlife biologist Carl Lackey told commissioners as they deal with the problem in steps, the bears will migrate.
“The bear problem at Kingsbury was much more extensive 8 to 10 years ago before the introduction of the bear-proof trash containers,” Lackey said. “If the containers had been introduced all at once, that would have dealt with a lot of the problem. Because Douglas County is doing it in steps, the bear population will continue to move to areas with more easily accessible food.”
Under the ordinance, a violation can only occur if there is documentation of a bear getting into improperly secured trash. A bear-proof trash container is required after a bear has been caught raiding the same residence twice in a two-year period.
A bear-proof collection bin must be installed within 90 days of incident. If there is another incident within two years, the party will be cited and if convicted, receive a fine of not less than $100.