Out and about: Lake Tahoe wildlife making an appearance

Cheyanne Neuffer
A bear calmly strolls down the street and into a meadow off Lake Parkway near Heavenly Village in South Lake Tahoe.
Provided / Cheyanne Neuffer

Lake Tahoe has slowed and residents are hunkered down which means shy wildlife feels more comfortable roaming around.

Residents who are sheltering at home from the coronavirus can witness Tahoe’s local heritage from their kitchen windows, from coyotes strolling down the middle of neighborhood streets to more bear sightings.

Usually hiding from the hustle and bustle of traffic and tourists, wildlife is out and about, not worried about being sheltered in place.

“We are noticing and getting more calls on bears being out and about, more than when lots of people are around,” said Ann Bryant, executive director of Bear League.

While the majority of calls to the League have been about sightings of bears and coyotes, there also have been reports of ermine, which is an elusive, rare relative to a weasel.

Since the shelter-in-place order, Bryant said they are also seeing less human wildlife collisions such as birds and squirrels being hit by cars.

Peter Tira, of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said whenever there is less traffic, animals will be more active.

“Anytime there is less human activity, there is more wildlife activity,” Tira said.

Tira said that they aren’t surprised to be seeing more wildlife during these times. Less human disturbances gives wildlife a chance to roam about.

Sightings of wildlife are not just in Tahoe but spans throughout the state.

Tira said that they still don’t know what is going to happen if shelter-in-place continues for significantly longer and the bears that have become dependent on humans, don’t have the same sources of food from homeowners and tourists.

For wildlife admirers, increased sightings is a great thing. But increased sightings can put wildlife at harm, especially when they get used to the free range.

“It worries me because I don’t want the bears to get too comfortable and then start to think they’ve got the Lake Tahoe neighborhoods all to themselves,” Bryant said. “When people start to re-emerge we might potentially have some issues at first. We’ll want to make sure everyone understands humans need to be patient and understanding so the bears can get used to all of us being back out and about, rather than people being upset and nervous to see them. Some vacationers and visitors who aren’t as familiar with the presence of bears might think this is a dangerous situation, but it is not.”

The Bear League is available to answer wildlife questions at 530-525-7297.

If you see injured or orphaned wildlife, call Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care at 530-577-2273.

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