Something’s a bruin: Bears awake, hungry and thirsty |

Something’s a bruin: Bears awake, hungry and thirsty

Parker Allen Dial and Jason Shueh
Tahoe Daily Tribune
Published Caption: Adam Jensen / Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A bear that visited a South Tahoe resident may have needed an extra boost to get going after the long-lasting winter.

South Lake resident Marc Johnson believes a local bear rummaged through and drank his supply of Red Bulls at his home on the edge of the Angora Ridge area. This was not his first visit from a local bear, Johnson said, but it was the first time a bear stole and consumed an entire case of energy drinks.

Johnson left a number of cases of different drinks out on his porch that night after a trip to Costco earlier in the day. The bear passed on a case of Gatorade and a case of Hansen’s Natural Soda before settling on the energy drinks.

“The bear had a choice, and it sampled several different drinks of mine,” he said. “But the bear chose my Red Bulls and drank every can in the case that left outside.”

It is unknown if the bear subsequently grew wings.

Local wildlife has been awake since early March, according to local officials. Bear advocates and agents from the Nevada Department of Wildlife have both confirmed around 30 to 40 bear/human encounters already this year.

According to the same officials most cases can be traced to the irresponsible handling of garbage or to groceries or pet food left outside.

Already this spring eight black bear have been killed in Nevada’s Sierra valleys and regional wildlife officials are urging Tahoe residents to be extra vigilant when it comes storing their food and disposing garbage.

Carl Lackey, a wildlife biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, said the department has killed eight bears this spring. Late-season cold weather and snow conditions have pushed bears into the valleys, and residents and visitors locked up their trash or food too late, which drew the bruins into cars and homes, Lackey said.

“It has been a little bit different this year,” Lackey said. “So far I’ve seen an increase in the number of bear events in the valleys and I attribute that to the late winter weather conditions.”

One or two bears is normal for this time of season, Lackey said, but eight if “far too high.”

Cristen Langner, a wildlife biologist for California Fish and Game, said this year the California side of the Tahoe basin has had three permitted bear deaths, not uncommon for this time of the year. Each of the deaths was also a result of residents not locking up food trash or food, she said.

Some bears grow accustomed to people who forget to bring in all their groceries or lock up their garbage, and learn that a free meal is only as far as down the hill and onto someone’s property, Lackey said.

“The big thing is that every time these bears are successful (finding stored trash or food) it just reinforces that behavior,” Langner said.

Hot spots around the basin are centered mostly on South Lake Tahoe, she said, as well as Tahoma and the Highway 89 corridor near the Squaw Valley and Alpine resorts.

While Nevada and California law allow for the elimination of nuisance bears, killing animals that continuously enter human environments is not a solution, said Ann Bryant of the BEAR League, a local bear advocacy group.

If human ignorance or laziness creates a problem bear, the bear isn’t the one that should suffer for it, she said.

“People need to realize that putting your trash or food in a garage overnight is only a temporary solution,” Lackey said. “Use bear-proof containers and the majority of these unwanted encounters can be avoided.”

Bryant also encouraged Tahoe visitors and residents to be territorial.

“We need to keep the bears afraid of us in order to protect them,” she said.

Tahoe is not home to grizzly bears or other breeds known for killing people, Bryant said. She insisted that black bears are friendly and timid for the most part.

There has never been a case of a black bear killing anyone in Nevada, Lackey said.

Bears are a natural resource that must be preserved and protected to thrive Bryant said.

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