Officials tackle bear problems |

Officials tackle bear problems

A mama bear breaks into a dumpster to feed her cub. Bear advocates are asking both the county and the community for help with the mounting bear problems.

RENO (AP) – Washoe County commissioners have agreed to revive a task force to try to reduce problems with bears.

Commissioners instructed staff Tuesday to implement training for parks and animal control staff to respond to bear calls and draft an ordinance targeting control of garbage.

Problems are particularly acute in neighborhoods along the Sierra Front, where commissioners said they want residents to stop putting out their garbage the night before pickup and to use bear-proof containers.

Commissioners also discussed possible ordinances imposing fines on people who don’t take measures to discourage bears.

Experts say keeping a lid on trash is key to keeping bears out of residential neighborhoods.

Wildlife Director Ken Mayer asked the board for $50,000 to help defray the agency’s cost for responding to bear calls.

“Sooner or later, a (bear) swat is going to kill somebody,” Mayer said.

Wildlife biologist Carl Lackey said the department received 4,792 calls about bears in Washoe and Douglas counties and Carson City in July and August, 1,000 more than last year.

Lackey said drought and wildfires have driven bears closer to humans to scrounge for food while more people move into bear habitat in the foothills.

With more development coming to the fringe and a forecast of drought for several years, experts said the problem is only going to get worse and won’t go away in the winter when bears should be hibernating.

Once bears get a taste for garbage, Lackey said they’ll wake up every week to feast on garbage left out for pickup the next morning.

When bears are moved, they find their way back, he said. And if a bear is killed, another takes its place within a few weeks.

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