Incline launches program to reduce bear problems |

Incline launches program to reduce bear problems

Tribune News Service and wire reports

INCLINE VILLAGE – Officials have launched a campaign designed to reduce human-bear conflicts in this upscale North Shore community.

Under the Bear Aware Program, Washoe County and Incline Village General Improvement District officials will stress educating the public about steps that can be taken to reduce human food sources for bears.

“What’s key to the success is to get the word out about what people can do to lessen the encounters with bears,” said Sarah Tone, IVGID resource conservationist. “These encounters can be dangerous for both people and the bears.”

The sheriff’s substation in Incline Village handled 35 bear incidents last year, the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza newspaper reported. Three garbage-foraging bears were killed by state wildlife officials.

Tone and Assistant Washoe County Manager Michelle Poche plan to give presentations about the program to homeowner associations, vacation rental companies and other local groups.

The county is picking up the tab for printing of leaflets and other educational materials.

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Tone said the new program is modeled after several national campaigns whose main goal is to reduce human food sources for bears.

With a growing population encroaching on their turf, bears have adapted, and many have adopted a diet of human food.

Tone acknowledged ordinances that prohibit feeding of wildlife are in place, but said they must be publicized and eventually enforced.

“Before we have to institute enforcement … we have to make sure that we are leading by example. Which means we have to make sure all the IVGID facilities have bear-proof trash containers and to retro-fit those that don’t,” she said.

Tone also urged the district to eventually consider a bear-proof container incentive program for residents who can’t afford them.

“Maybe it could be a 50-50 split on the cost of a container,” she said.

IVGID board member Bob Wolf suggested the problem primarily is caused by part-time residents and vacationers who don’t empty their trash.

But Director of Public Works Dan St. John said local businesses were to blame for most bear complaints involving trash.

“Some of these businesses have the bear-proof containers but they’re sometimes left open,” St. John said.

State wildlife officials have said Washoe County’s failure to enact an ordinance requiring bear-proof containers is partly to blame for the rise in bear-human conflicts.

Other counties that cover portions of Lake Tahoe have enacted such ordinances in recent years.

Douglas County and California’s Placer and El Dorado counties now require a homeowner to install a bear-proof trash container after a second bear-related trash problem.

Placer County also requires installation of the containers for new construction as well as major remodeling projects.