Douglas expands bear ordinance Bear-proof trash container rules in Lake Tahoe Basin could cover the entire county
An ordinance that keeps bears in their natural habitat and out of garbage cans in Lake Tahoe could be expanded to include most of Douglas County.
Commissioners directed county staff last week to draft the new bear-proof trash container ordinance, currently limited to the Lake Tahoe basin. A draft of the ordinance that will include all of Douglas County with the exception of Minden and Gardnerville, will be brought back to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners for approval.
The Lake Tahoe ordinance requires installation of bear-proof containers after a bear has delved into a residents’ garbage a second time, but not one bear-proof can has been mandated in Lake Tahoe since the ordinance was put in place, said Jay Hoogestraat, code enforcer for Douglas County.
Education and compelling consequences for a failure to act have been the key to success at Lake Tahoe, he said.
“Education doesn’t compel some people, but hanging a consequence on their actions does,” he said. “It worked at the Lake. We didn’t force anyone to purchase bear-proof containers and little by little, 50 percent of the residents have installed them.”
Minden and Gardnerville would be excluded from the ordinance, in part because they have franchised trash removal providers and a fully automated system.
“If a bear is found inside the town limits, Carl (Lackey) agrees to remove and relocate the bear,” Hoogestraat said.
Every Douglas County improvement district except the Gardnerville Ranchos has sanctioned the ordinance, Hoogestraat said.
Bear-proof containers are not cheap and Commission Chairman Doug Johnson said he wasn’t happy about forcing this ordinance on people in less-affluent areas of Douglas County.
Hoogestraat said Douglas Disposal would be willing to work with people at minimal charge if containers can be easily serviced.
This year, there have been more complaints in Carson Valley than on Kingsbury Grade. Bears have been reported at Highway 395 and Stephanie Way as well as Riverview Trailer Park, said Carl Lackey of the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
“The increase in activity in the valley has been the result of learned behavior,” he said. “The cubs remember where they got the food and they return.”
The growing number of homes encroaching on bear habitat as the population moves to the urban fringe is another catalyst, Lackey said.
“Apple trees, koi ponds and trash all provide an attractive nuisance,” he said. “The increased habitat can support more bears than before.”
Commissioner Jim Baushke said the ordinance should be explicit about what comprises a penalty.
“What if a bear comes in a house?” he said.
“When a bear breaks into a home, we euthanize them,” Lackey said. “But we’ve never euthanized a bear that wasn’t garbage habituated.”