The bears are back in Tahoe
August 4, 2009
LAKE TAHOE – After a wet spring that kept bears in the backcountry longer, ursine intruders are making their way back into local neighborhoods, officials said.
“The season started with a bang – bears woke up early,” said Ann Bryant of the BEAR League. “The spring rains seemed to help create food for them. But now bears are going into houses again.”
It started with bears finding their way into open doors and windows, but has escalated to breaking into homes again, Bryant said.
“We are probably getting five to 10 calls every morning about break-ins the night before – and that’s for Truckee and all of Tahoe,” Bryant said.
On the Nevada side of the lake, Carl Lackey, Nevada Department of Wildlife biologist, said things are still comparably slow.
“There are two things – we had a very wet spring so a lot of natural food has been available, and the economy – all the resorts and timeshares I’ve talked to don’t have the people, and the Dumpsters aren’t overflowing,” Lackey said. “It’s picked up but nothing compared to past years.”
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But on the California side, Jason Holley, wildlife biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, said things started picking up in July.
“It’s ramped up to be relatively busy with lots of calls,” Holley said.
Lackey said the Nevada Department of Wildlife has had to put down three trouble bears that have broken into homes so far this summer.
Holley said the California Department of Fish and Game has had to euthanize about 10, and used aversion to scare away three others.
This, Bryant said, is the fault of visitors and residents who don’t stow garbage properly and don’t discourage – even encourage – bears to come into local neighborhoods.
“We recommend that people, if they see a bear, become very defensive, throw rocks, make a lot of noise, and let the bears know they’re not welcome,” Bryant said. “For too many years they’ve been made to feel welcome into our neighborhoods.”
Additionally, Lackey said people need bear-proof containers for garbage.
“Bear-proof your trash cans before you have a problem. People wait until the bear is knocking at their door, and by then, it’s too late,” Lackey said.
The bears have gotten so bold to crawl under people’s decks to use as day beds, something Bryant said she hasn’t seen in the past.
Bears are even starting to figure out how to turn door knobs, testing to see if doors are locked, Bryant said.
“They’re showing signs of being more intelligent than residents and visitors, and that’s how we lose the battle,” Bryant said.
Last winter’s release of orphaned or injured bear cubs appears to be a success story, Bryant said.
Cubs, including two who’s mother was killed on the western slope, and “Lil’ Smokey,” the famous cub that burnt its paws in last summer’s fires, all appear to be alive and healthy, tracked with radio collars by Fish and Game.
Of the four cubs released north of Truckee near the Sagehen Field Station, Holley said two have been hanging around people a little too much – one in Verdi, and the other at the field station.
Holley said the Nevada Department of Wildlife used aversion techniques on the bear in Verdi.
“The other two have had no reports of getting into any kind of trouble, they seem to be trying to be wild bears,” Holley said.