Hot Tahoe summer brings out bears; people urged to contain trash
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Summer is in full swing at Lake Tahoe, and with the season comes picnics, camping and a wide host of other activities.
Add a whole lot of bear sightings to that list, according to BEAR League Executive Director Ann Bryant.
Bryant said there have been a lot of calls into the BEAR League’s hotline regarding sightings, break-ins and garbage rummaging, especially around Meyers and South Lake Tahoe’s “Y” area.
“They are just getting into trash because a lot of people don’t secure it properly,” Bryant said.
The BEAR League, based in Homewood, acts as one of the go-to groups on black bear activities in the Lake Tahoe Basin and provides tips on how to co-exist with the wildlife.
Bryant noted there are a few recurring cases of two mother bears with their cubs. One mother with a trio of cubs has been trotting around the “Y” and Gardner Mountain neighborhoods, while a second mother and two cubs have been wandering around Meyers.
Tom Millham, co-founder of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, Inc., said his organization has received reports of the two sets of bears.
“(On July 26), two bear cubs had gotten stuck into a storm drain,” Millham said. “We had to open it up to get them out and to the mother.”
Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care also receives calls about bears, although nowhere near the volume that the BEAR League receives.
The wildlife center also handles treatment for bear cubs that have been seriously injured before releasing back into the area they came from.
While bear sightings aren’t unusual in the Lake Tahoe Basin, Bryant said they’re more frequent at the South Shore, and encounters in the neighborhoods are largely due to the amount of improperly stored trash.
“There are just a lot of opportunities for food for bears these days,” Bryant said. “Where’s there’s food and people, there’s a win for bears.”
Recommendations to reduce bear incursions into trash include securing trash in a bear-resistant container, bear box or in the garage, and not leaving it out the night before trash pickup.
Because of increased encounters and foraging for food, something Bryant said is partially due to the current drought, some people have misconceptions about black bears being dangerous.
“People who react in fear often have the wrong reaction,” Bryant said. “Black bears will mostly run up a tree.”
She added most misconceived reactions seem to come from visitors instead of residents.
“Most of the people who live here seem to know that black bears aren’t dangerous,” Bryant said. “We have to realize that we share the ecosystem sensibly.”
Millham, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care’s co-founder, agrees that interaction with bears can be misconstrued at times.
“They are more afraid of us than we are of them,” Millham said.
Millham advised to keep a respectful distance from black bears, especially if they’re encountered near a home.
“Bears always go out the same way they came in so keep that area clear,” Millham said.
He stressed for people to avoid the popular trend of taking “selfies” with bears.
“It’s not a good idea and I would recommend more than 50 feet away, if at all,” Millham said about taking photos.