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Tahoe bears wake while it’s still winter

Kyle Magin / North Lake Tahoe Bonanza
El Dorado County offers tips to keep pets safe in winter.
File photo

INCLINE VILLAGE – The long winter’s nap appears to be over for some Tahoe bruins, with reports of bears already beginning despite a lingering layer of winter snow.

A bear was sighted by an Incline Village man March 4 in the area of Southwood Boulevard near the Incline Village General Improvement District’s administrative offices, said Washoe County sheriff’s Sgt. Bill Devine.

The deputy who responded to the bear call said the bruin showed little fear of the law-enforcement officer, according to Devine. So, the sheriff’s office contacted Nevada Department of Wildlife biologist Carl Lackey to trap the bear.

Lackey said bear sightings are uncommon but not unheard of this early in the year.

“Late March is a little more common for bear sightings, but we’ve had bears that are active all winter, so this isn’t too unusual,” Lackey said.

He set a trap last Thursday near the IVGID administration building, leaving a delicious meal of maple syrup-covered cookies and cream-filled oatmeal cookies to lure the bear into the steel cylinder.

Lackey said that once the bear is trapped, he will evaluate the animal to determine if it is dangerous or not.

“The report of the bear either bluff-charging or not being afraid of humans is a little concerning,” Lackey said. “It should be running the other way.”

Lackey said bluff-charging is a defensive mechanism bears use to scare away perceived threats, though they rarely follow through. He said he will transport the bear to a safer location within the Lake Tahoe Basin for release.

After Lackey set the trap, he headed up to another Incline Village residence to respond to a report of a bear under a deck.

Penny and Allen Misher said a small black bear has been living under their back deck and devoured three small pine trees in their backyard.

“I felt bad for him – he looked thin when I saw him a few weeks ago,” Allen Misher said.

The Mishers said the bear has come and gone from under their deck for about six weeks.

Lackey was unable to find the bear and concluded it wasn’t home when he investigated the deck last Thursday afternoon. He said it had done minor damage to the deck’s lattice work.

Madonna Dunbar, IVGID research conservationist and member of the multiagency Sierra Bear Front, said Washoe County is embarking on an awareness campaign to educate people about bears such as the one under the Mishers’ deck.

She said the bear group met near the end of February with NDOW to set up a new bear-sighting hotline, (775) 688-BEAR (2327).

Dunbar said the Sierra Bear Front will go before the Washoe County Commission in April to present a community outreach program for this spring and summer.

The program includes advertising on TV and radio stations purchased by Washoe County beginning this spring to educate members of the community about bear safety.

“Basically, we want people to know a fed bear is a dead bear. They need to lock up their Dumpster and stash their trash,” Dunbar said.


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