Bear aversion may be working
Tahoe bears have been taken to school, and it seems the primary lesson – stay away from people – is sinking in.
“They don’t seem to be getting in trouble so much,” said Ann Bryant, president of the BEAR League. “I think the aversion program is really working – they stand up and listen.”
For the past year basin-area sheriff’s departments have been working with the BEAR League under the banner of the Bear Aversion Program in an effort to educate both the public and the bears. The program employs such aversion methods as rubber bullets and noise makers in order to chase the animals back into their natural habitat.
“Evidently, the bears have kind of gotten a clue,” said Deputy Dan Bartley, a member of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department and the person responsible for bringing the aversion practices to the Tahoe area. “I’ve got to give the bears credit, I didn’t expect them to learn this fast.”
Bartley said the number of nuisance-calls received so far this year pales in the light of last summer: three or four this year compared to last year’s 30ish.
“There’s no other explanation of why we didn’t have as many calls,” Bartley said, crediting the aversion program. “It’s putting the fear of humans back into bears.”
The BEAR League has also been active, placing informative flyers in local businesses in hopes of educating area visitors about Tahoe’s harrier neighbors. The postings suggest appropriate behavior for someone who encounters a bear.
“It’s especially good for the tourist, because if they don’t even know there are bears up here, they certainly don’t know how to act around them,” Bryant said.
Whether it be informative postings, the aversion program or a combination of efforts, something seems to be working on both the human and the bear front.
“The bears are behaving and people are responsible and seem to be a lot more compassionate,” Bryant said. “It’s amazing, it’s really promising. It’s a good thing.”
When considering the alternative – having problem bears “destroyed” – these educational and aversion options pose a more palatable solution. Bryant, for one, revels in the program’s success.
“It proves our bears are smart and easy to train,” she said. “They don’t like the rubber buckshot – I wouldn’t either.”
For more information, or to report nuisance bear activity in your neighborhood, contact the BEAR League at 525-PAWS.
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