States pool resources to combat Tahoe bear problems
RENO – Responding to last year’s record number of problems reported with bears in the Lake Tahoe Basin, state wildlife officials in California and Nevada announced a new agreement Wednesday to pool their resources to try to minimize the conflicts this summer.
The joint effort outlined in the memorandum of agreement calls for the California Department of Fish and Game and the Nevada Department of Wildlife to share information, personnel, equipment and supplies in a cooperative black bear management program.
“This MOA is an important symbol of our two agencies coming together to tackle some unfortunate bear/human interactions in the Tahoe Basin,” said Donald Koch, director of the California agency.
Ken Mayer, director of the Nevada agency, said both states have the jurisdictional authority and legal responsibility to manage conflicts between the public and wildlife.
“The citizens of Nevada and California want their states cooperating to make sure that the people living and visiting the Tahoe Basin leave as light a footprint as possible,” Mayer said.
California’s bear population is growing and currently is estimated to be between 25,000 and 35,000. Nevada has an estimated 350 black bears, mostly concentrated in the Tahoe Basin area.
Last year was the worst across the Reno-Tahoe region in terms of conflicts, with wildlife officials responding to up to 1,500 calls involving 120 different bears, said Carl Lackey, NDOW’s bear program coordinator,
Under the new program, the agencies will share computer databases to give them more information about black bear nuisance and property-damage incidents, as well as locations, telemetry and urban and wildland bear distribution population characteristics.
They also intend to:
— Cooperate on discussions with local governments to foster adoption and implementation of coordinated bear-management policies.
— Direct field personnel to assist each other in the resolution of nuisance bear concerns and to share material resources under appropriate circumstances.
— Schedule joint public meetings to assure that nuisance and property-damage black bear concerns are addressed in a consistent manner.
— Share information, including news releases and other communications products, such as the DFG-produced “Keep Me Wild Campaign,” found at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/ or http://www.ndow.org/wild/kmw/index.shtm.
Doug Updike, California’s statewide bear program coordinator, said one of the most important ways to combat bear conflicts is to limit food odors at campgrounds.
“Problems begin when bears learn to associate an easy food supply with humans and developed areas,” Updike said.
“Once this happens, bears become habituated or conditioned to go after human food because it’s easy. If people don’t change their ways, the bears won’t either,” he said.
Lackey agrees that one of the biggest challenges at Lake Tahoe continues to be teaching people to keep their garbage away from bears.
“The more people who understand that it is our responsibility to keep the bears wild, the better off bears and humans will be,” he said.