LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — It’s not your average bear battle.
After years of trying to keep the region’s black bears from being captured and possibly killed, animal rights activists in Lake Tahoe are using increasingly aggressive strategies to keep California and Nevada game wardens from trapping bears that break into homes, businesses and campsites in search of food.
Members of the Bear League, a grass-roots group that tries to educate people not to fear the animals and to keep better tabs on their trash, have started keeping vigils by traps and booing the game wardens who set and check on them, The Sacramento Bee reports.
“They are just gorgeous creatures, and they are so misunderstood,” said Carolyn Stark, a Bear League board member. She helped maintain a round-the-clock vigil at a trap recently set at an Incline Village home where a female bear had twice broken into the garage. “It’s so unfair. I want to help protect them.”
Other activists have coated the devices with Pine-Sol to deter bears and even used teddy bears as decoys, the newspaper said. And a Facebook page called the Lake Tahoe Wall of Shame prints the addresses of places that have been careless with garbage bins or where traps are rumored to be imminent.
Residents and business owners who have called wildlife officials to report bears on their property also have been caught in the crosshairs with anonymous threats and online slurs, The Bee said.
John Brissenden, manager of Sorensen’s Resort, said employees were threatened after two bears were killed there last year.
“We were branded as murderers and executioners,” Brissenden said. “It was alarming, discouraging, given our 40 years of protecting wildlife habitat, including bear habitat.”
Bear League Executive Director Ann Bryant says her group only intervenes legally and does not endorse threats or trap-tampering.
“We are accused of all kinds of things,” Bryant said. “People who don’t like bears don’t like us. We know that.”
The combination of tactics has made property owners reluctant to call wildlife officials for assistance, Nevada Department of Wildlife director Tony Wasley said.
“We’ve had residences broken into by bears where the occupants made the statement that the people were more dangerous than the bears,” Wasley said. “For that reason, they didn’t want a trap or, in one case, asked that the trap be removed.”