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Good news, bears

by Andy Bourelle

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care may have some good news for baby bears this summer.

The nonprofit group soon could be the first place in California that can take care of orphaned black bear cubs. Now becoming an orphan usually equals death.

“There’s nothing like this in California at this time,” said Cheryl Millham, executive director of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. “That’s why all the baby bears get killed. That is what we want to rectify.”



Orphaned cubs now are either killed by state authorities or are left to fend for themselves, which also often results in death for the young bears. Rarely, some are transported for about $4,000 per cub to bear rehabilitation facilities out of state.

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, an organization established more than 20 years ago where volunteers nurse injured or ill wild animals back to health, has been trying for years to get the permission and the resources to take care of the bears at Tahoe.



Millham said California Fish and Game is reviewing a pending permit that would allow the Tahoe volunteers to take in up to three orphaned bear cubs at a time. A decision on the permit is expected next month.

The wildlife center still needs about $25,000 worth of work completed on a suitable bear cage, money that it doesn’t have.

Workers began to build the cage several years ago; however, without the wildlife center’s being able to get a permit to accept bears, construction stopped.

As soon as the center raises the money, Millham said, it will take about 60 days to complete the bear cage.

“The cage has to be made to hold rambunctious baby bears,” Millham said. “It has to be strong, because baby bears are strong.”

At its South Shore facility, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care has taken care of bald and golden eagles, hawks, raccoons, bobcats, owls, squirrels, deer and other wild animals.

Historically at Tahoe, people often feed bears or leave trash where the animals can get to it, which leads to some bears losing their fear of humans and causing problems.

Efforts to save Tahoe’s black bears have been in the spotlight in recent years, and the wildlife group has been active in those fights. Millham has worked with the one-year-old Bear Preservation League helping to train basin residents about how to respond to bear complaints and educating residents about how to better co-exist with the furry animals.

The league formed in late 1998 after a mother bear and her cub were killed by Fish and Game on West Shore. The bear had another cub, however, which was orphaned and later died when hit by a car.

Last October, a mother bear was killed by a car near Spooner Summit. Her cubs stayed in the area and suffered the same fate within hours. Concern over that group of deaths also has effected change. The Nevada Department of Transportation this spring is planning to erect the state’s first-ever bear-crossing signs around the intersection.

Having the bear cage will fill a void in Tahoe’s efforts to help area black bears, Millham said.

Orphaned bears outside the Tahoe region would be accepted, too.

“There’s no place to take them now,” she said. “When a mother is shot, or killed by a car, or dies from another injury, the babies are killed.

“How sad it is. You’re a baby bear; your mother dies. You have to die, too. How sad.”

More information about Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care’s efforts to take care of orphaned bears can be obtained by calling (530) 577-2273.


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