With food available, many bears at Tahoe forgo hibernation | TahoeDailyTribune.com

With food available, many bears at Tahoe forgo hibernation

Dumpster diving IHOP Bear
Provided/Toogee Sielsch

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Fresh snowfall blankets the Tahoe Basin which is to be expected in the winter months, but what many people don’t expect is to see a black bear rumbling around, but it’s become more common.

Wisdom on how to coexist with bears is available through many organizations and agencies. Many of them have collaborated to create Keep Tahoe Bears Wild and TahoeBears.org. The partnership comprises the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Parks, Nevada Department of Wildlife, and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Black bears spend the fall bulking up during a time of hyperphagia, during which time they need four times the amount of calories they need during the spring. What is expected of the ursid friends of Tahoe is for them to bed down for the winter and hibernate after they fatten up.

Provided/Toogee Sielsch

Hibernation, according to National Geographic is “an extended form of torpor, a state where metabolism is depressed to less than 5% of normal.” 

According to the NDOW website, “torpor [is] more accurate for bears, occurs in late fall or early winter as the weather cools and natural food becomes less available.” 

But many bears at Tahoe are not hibernating for the winter due to access to food.

“Food sources for bears are available Spring and Summer when they’re eating grass for 80% of their diet, also pine nuts, bug larvae, yellow jacket larvae, ant larvae, berries, rose hips and other naturally that can be foraged,” said Toogee Sielsch, a 40-year resident of South Lake Tahoe and bear enthusiast. With access to food they don’t need to go into torpor. Fifty-two weeks out of the year food is provided by humans — dumpsters at businesses and residences are the number one culprit.”

Dumpster diving IHOP Bear
Provided/Toogee Sielsch

The message to successfully coexist with wildlife is consistent throughout the basin — “Let bears find food in the wild and give them space,” the NDOW website says.

Nonprofits like to the Sierra Wildlife Coalition chime in on their website with facts and advice “[Black bears] are omnivorous, always searching for food and have a very good sense of smell. They may approach or enter homes if they smell food, or if they have found food before. They are very smart and strong and learn to get into open or unlocked windows and doors or under homes.”

Bear and Cubs
Provided/Toogee Sielsch

Ann Bryant of the BEAR League said, “The number one thing you can do right now is secure your crawl spaces.” 

To report human-bear conflicts in California, contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at 916-358-2917 or report online using CDFW’s Wildlife Incident Reporting system at https://apps.wildlife.ca.gov/wir. Non-emergency wildlife interactions within California State Parks can be reported to public dispatch at 916-358-1300. To report human-bear conflicts in Nevada, contact the Nevada Department of Wildlife at 775-688-2327.

If the issue is a direct threat or emergency, call 911 to seek immediate help from local law enforcement.

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