Human-bear interactions at Tahoe, Nevada focus of awareness month | SierraSun.com

Human-bear interactions at Tahoe, Nevada focus of awareness month

Staff report

Karelian bear dog 'Orca' is hot on the heels of a roughly 140-pound, 2-year-old male black bear during a release earlier this year off Kingsbury Grade.

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — For the second year in a row, Gov. Brian Sandoval has declared July as "BEAR Logic Month" in Nevada.

"BEAR" stands for Bear Education, Aversion and Research, and BEAR Logic Month is an opportunity to help educate the public about living in bear country.

To meet the goal of BEAR Logic Month, the Nevada Department of Wildlife has put together a series of public service announcements, videos, infographics and a resource page on the NDOW website.

Bear and human-wildlife conflicts often become more common with Northern Nevadans during the summer months, and living in bear country requires that residents take extra precautions.

"Bears can be very tolerant of humans, and very adaptable to urban environments," says NDOW game biologist Carl Lackey. "People are attracting bears with bird feeders, fruit trees, chicken coops, pet food and trash. Especially in a drought, people often make their backyards better habitat than certain types of wildlife can find anywhere else, causing further conflicts."

Bear complaints have risen sharply in the last 10 years, due in part to the increase in people living in bear habitat.

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With Nevada in its fourth year of drought and the population of black bears in the state increasing, the problem will only continue to grow unless people start taking steps to remove the food sources that are attracting the bears.

"Some people don't recognize that they live in wildlife habitat, but anywhere along the Carson Front, from Reno to Gardnerville, including the Tahoe Basin and associated mountain ranges, including areas like Galena Forest on the Mt. Rose highway is bear habitat," said Lackey. "With historically very good bear habitat throughout the area, people must continue to take steps to remove food sources that attract bears."

Bears are opportunistic and will eat anything that becomes available. The bear's powerful sense of smell allows it to find food that humans consider out of reach. By removing these attractants, bear and humans are less likely to have unpleasant encounters.

When people are irresponsible with their food and garbage, bears can wind up in trouble. The Nevada Department of Wildlife reports that nearly 95 percent of all human-bear conflicts are associated with trash.

Bears naturally fear humans, but if they have access to human food sources they may become addicted, lose their natural fear of humans, and even become aggressive.

"As always the main issue is people living in bear habitat and allowing bear's access to their trash," said Lackey. "We've proven that by stopping access to human sources of food the wildlife conflicts almost totally disappear." NDOW believes that by following a few simple steps, you can help avoid human-bear conflicts.

Visit ndow.org/Nevada_Wildlife/Bear_Logic to learn more.

Avoiding human-bear conflicts

• Use bear resistant containers (BRCs) and place them outside at least 30 feet from the house so bears do not learn to associate the smells and food rewards with your home.

• Use removable bird feeders (including hummingbird feeders) for temporary placement, or better yet, scatter bird seed on the ground, not in a container or in a pile. This way, bears and other animals like deer won’t be able to easily get it.

• Keep pet food cleaned up or indoors. Place horse grain and chicken feed inside lockable metal containers and keep them outside so bears do not break into your shed or barn.

• Use electric fencing to keep bears out of gardens, apiaries and orchards. You should also remove any fruit as soon as it ripens.