Woman struck by bear on visit to Tahoe concerns officials

Staff Report

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — After a woman was struck by a bear this past weekend at Lake Tahoe, a Nevada wildlife director said he fears encounters will only escalate if his agency is not more involved with mitigating problems.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife on Monday said a 25-year-old woman was struck in the leg by a bear that was possibly defending food it had just pilfered from a cooler.

The agency said the woman reported standing by a picnic table and was unaware of a bear about 15 feet away when it walked up to her and hit her in the leg, tearing her jeans and causing minor injuries.

Game wardens handling the call believe that the bear was most likely defending the food it had just discovered in a cooler owned by the woman and group she was with, the release said.

“We were very fortunate that this only ended in some torn jeans and an injury on the leg,” said Game Warden Captain Jake Kreamer. “Coming between a bear and its food is a dangerous place to be.”

NDOW said it has noticed a significant increase in “these sorts” of encounters over the past few years, with the bears around the Tahoe Basin becoming increasingly habituated to people and human food sources.

“Coexisting with wildlife is fraught with numerous challenges,” said NDOW Director Tony Wasley in the release. “It takes effort on our part to do everything we can to keep these animals wild. That means storing your food properly when you’re camping. It means keeping your trash cans inaccessible to bears and rethinking those bird feeders in your yard. The bears here are becoming increasingly habituated and increasingly emboldened. When we leave food accessible to them, we know why they show up in our campgrounds, on our doorsteps, or in our garages.”

Wasley believes that some of the biggest contributors to the growing number of bear encounters is that many people are unaware of appropriate behaviors in bear country.

He also feels like there is a perception that the agency should only be contacted as a last resort, which he would like to change.

“Somehow we’ve been relegated to a solely reactionary role, well-after these habits and patterns of bear behavior are formed” Wasley said. “It’s hard to successfully intervene in a growing problem when you’re the last one invited to the party. Often, we are not involved until a bear has become so habituated that it’s breaking into multiple houses and putting the public in danger. Maybe if we were called sooner, the problem could be corrected before it becomes dangerous. My fear is that if this situation does not change, these types of encounters will only escalate in both frequency and severity.”

A bear roams through a South Lake Tahoe neighborhood. (Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune)

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