Guest Column: Are we still doing this with Tahoe’s bears?
Ryan Summerlin July 17, 2013
Well, I’m back in Tahoe taking a leave of absence from my multi-year sailboat voyage around South America. I’ve come back to attend to family matters, and it’s great to be home.
I was looking forward to a lot of backpacking through the Sierra and hoping to see some of our beautiful black bears.
Turns out, I only need to wander out into the driveway and look around, where people are still leaving bags of trash laying around in driveways and in open garages.
Oh great, another guest column about bears and trash. But this one has a picture, worth a lot of words (which I’ll try to minimize).
What concerned me the most was this bear’s complete desensitization to humans. S/he grabbed a piece of chicken, walked within a few feet of me, plopped down, ate the chicken, then walked back to the trash pile for more.
This will most certainly get it or someone else killed. Perhaps swimming with sharks desensitized me to animals that can rip out my jugular.
The Incline dear debate (or brawl?) has reminded me of something I always thought was pathetic around the many military aviation bases I’ve flown into.
Naïve, slightly ignorant people buy a house that sits on the end of a 60-year-old runway and then complain to their congressman about the jet noise.
It’s the same story in Incline with some people’s attitudes toward black bears.
Americans throw away 40 percent of their food. This is abhorrent on multiple levels, but let’s just keep it focused on our bears.
Increasingly dry winters are diminishing their normal food sources. Increasing contact with humans is also giving them an appetite for trash.
Additionally, black bears consume 20,000 calories per day prior to winter hibernation (if they hibernate at all thanks to the year-round food source we provide).
It doesn’t take a genius to see the problem that is presented here. Of course they’re going to rummage through your trash. So we shrug our shoulders and accept that they’re shot?
Why is it so difficult for us to show some responsibility? We all live in Tahoe. Most of us live here because we love the outdoors and everything that nature provides in this heaven-on-earth.
We think it’s sad when we hear about bears being shot or “accidentally overdosed,” but yet we continue to invite them onto our streets and into our garages.
Can we stop being stubborn and/or lazy now? Don’t think this is just about bear safety, either. It’s a public safety matter as well.
Will a solution immediately stop the bears from coming into town? No, it’ll take some time. Maybe a generation. But it has to start at some point.
I was pleased to find, upon my return to Incline, many more bear boxes and locking Dumpsters than before. It’s a good start. Now it’s your turn.
The Washoe County Commission will be holding a hearing about mandatory bear-resistant trash containers on Aug. 13. The containers are working here so far and have worked for other communities for minimizing bear/human conflicts. Go and voice your concerns.
Also, if a bear wanders into your neighborhood, scare it out or call the BEAR League (not NDOW). If you can identify what brought the bear into your neighborhood, don’t be afraid to politely educate your neighbors. Lock it up.
John Peltier is an Incline Village resident.
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