Supervisor probes bear problem
El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago stepped into the fray of Tahoe’s bear problems Friday after joining a group of concerned citizens in Christmas Valley for a “fact-finding mission.”
She came away convinced there are several possible solutions to the growing population of bears that seek food from trash in Tahoe, including better enforcement of Tahoe’s laws that prohibit feeding bears.
Education, enforcement, and working with vacation rental properties and waste removal company South Tahoe Refuse are now on the top of her list.
“I’m trying to get to the source of the problem and find a solution. We have to find a balance between public safety and coexisting with wildlife in our environment,” Santiago said.
A new problem seems to be on the rise.
BEAR League executive director Ann Bryant said problem bears that have been trapped in the Nevada portion of Tahoe, and then tagged and released, are showing up in California, where bears are never tagged. These bears wander from their release in the Pine Nuts into Hope Valley and over Luther Pass back to their buffet of Tahoe homes and garbage, Bryant contends.
“Taking responsibility for garbage will be the best birth control for the bear population,” Santiago said.
California Fish and Game officials believe black bear populations are unusually high. All Tahoe counties have codes prohibiting homeowners from providing trash to bears. Violators are cited twice before being required to buy bear-proof trash cans.
The Tahoe Daily Tribune reported last month that enforcement of trash laws in El Dorado County is lackluster. Ten citations were issued last year, according to Ginger Huber with Environmental Management. Douglas County Sheriff spokesman Tom Mezzetta said they have code enforcement officers to handle the problem, but he’s not aware of any citations being issued recently.
South Tahoe Refuse by contract picks up trash scattered by bears during night-time foraging. Santiago said she wants to see if the company will change their schedule so that trash does not sit out at night when bears are active.
The refuse company, which picks up trash before 8 a.m., has repeatedly said changing to a different schedule is not feasible because of traffic issues.
On Friday, Santiago visited a street in Christmas Valley where, in the past two years, bears have become increasingly brazen and broken into several homes. Joining her were Bryant, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center director Cheryl Millham and several other League members. At around 4:45 on Friday, they arrived en masse at the home of Mary Lou Mosbacher, who had a bear trap in her driveway this month for several weeks.
Mosbacher had to remove the trap because it had been vandalized to the point of no repair. The great-grandmother lives alone and has had frequent visits from bears. She has bear-proof trash cans, motion sensing lights and uses ammonia to keep bears away.
“She has done everything she can to deter bears on her property,” Santiago said after the group spoke with Mosbacher for about half an hour.
Mosbacher said she was willing to work with anybody to stop bears from breaking into homes and to keep them away from the many children in the neighborhood.
Bryant said there is consensus that bears do not belong in neighborhoods.
“We all agree on that,” she said.
The BEAR League is a non-profit which helps homeowners find non-lethal ways of discouraging bear visits.
“There will always be people who love bears fanatically and those who hate them to the extreme,” Bryant said. “We want to promote education and peaceful coexistence.
“We can coexist,” Santiago said. “We have a responsibility to this environment.”