Hungry bear, cubs working Lake Tahoe West Shore |

Hungry bear, cubs working Lake Tahoe West Shore

Emily Aughinbaugh, Tribune staff writer

Homes along the west shore continue to be broken into by a mother and her two children.

The thieves are a 200-pound female bear and her two 7-month-old cubs. The bears are moving north up the shore, hitting vacation homes left vacant for the winter.

The food pillaging trio first broke into a few homes in the Rubicon Drive, 3 Ring Road area at the beginning of September.

Since then, 15 to 20 homes have been hit, according to BEAR League Director Anne Bryant.

In an attempt to trap the rogue sow last month, Bryant said the Department of Fish and Game inadvertently trapped and killed the wrong bear, leaving the female bandit to continue her crime spree.

Bryant said the homeowners in the area were so disturbed by the trapping mishap, they won’t call California Fish and Game to report the new destruction caused by the bruin and her cubs.

“Everyone is extremely upset and they are afraid to do anything about it because they don’t want another wrong bear to be killed,” Bryant said. “We had a plan the first time (she broke into homes) and everything would have been fine if (Fish and Game) would have stuck with the plan. But they didn’t.”

Fran Gerhardy, a resident of the neighborhood where the wrong bear was killed, said she would advise neighbors to call the BEAR League if the sow breaks-in to their homes. Gerhardy said she was very disappointed with the way Fish and Game handled the trapping and killing of the male bear.

“At this point right now I would never call Fish and Game,” Gerhardy said. “We haven’t been able to see the body (of the killed bear). You feel something fishy is going on.”

Patrick Foy, public information officer for Fish and Game, said that although the target sow was not caught, the male bear that was destroyed had been breaking into homes within a mile of the same area.

“The bear that was trapped had caused quite a bit of property damage as well,” Foy said. “There are no absolute guarantees, but there’s a pretty good chance we’re going to catch the right bear.”

Foy advises residents to take away any attractants like garbage or food left outdoors. He said residents should call Fish and Game if they want a depredation permit in order to stop the bear, but the department officers will not set traps unless they are called.

Bryant said the rogue sow has been more aggressive than any bear she’s encountered. The sow actually breaks single-paned windows in order to get in houses. The mama bear breaks small windows so her cubs can enter the homes and raid the pantries and refrigerators. The cubs then pass the food out to their mother who dines on the deck.

Bryant said the mother is trying to wean her cubs and the three are starting to store fat for their hibernation period, which should start in about two months. This time of year, Bryant said bears are eating 20 hours a day.

“(The mama bear) eats Manzanita berries, which is good,” Bryant said. “But she supplements her diet with chocolate.”

Bryant said the sow breaks into homes, containing lots of chocolate, in the middle of the night when no one is home. She said it has been several days, in a few cases, before neighbors call the BEAR League to report a break-in.

“We don’t know how many (vandalized homes) are actually going to materialize once people come back,” Bryant said. “I’m really worried. There will be several homes that will just be gaping open all winter. “

“Last year there was a cub in the Meeks Bay area that broke into a few homes,” she said. “But he wasn’t a sneak like this one.”

Bryant said the male cub in the Meeks Bay area and the rogue sow plaguing the West Shore were hand fed when they were young.

“A fed bear is a dead bear,” Bryant said. “I don’t think we have too many bears for the natural environment, we’ve just lured these bears from the outlying areas. They have to get to the lake and they have to forage in stream beds.”

Bryant said bears start causing trouble when people feed them while they are en route to forage at the lake, making the bears knowledgeable about the connection between people and food.

Bryant said the cubs have now broken into too many homes to unlearn the nasty habit their mother has taught them. She said the young bruins’ only hope of survival is a sanctuary where they can live out their lives away from people. But, Bryant said the future of the bears’ lives rest in the hands of Fish and Game.

“I’d really like to be able to save the cubs,” Bryant said. “Now they’ve been on the rampage so long they think that’s the way to earn their living. I don’t know if they will be able to be programmed.”

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