Less bear complaints could be from plentiful forest | SierraSun.com
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Less bear complaints could be from plentiful forest

KINGS BEACH ” Bears may have foraged for berries and grass in Tahoe forests instead of for human snacks in trash cans this summer, according to California and Nevada wildlife experts.

“Compared to last year it has been much slower for us,” said Carl Lackey, a biologist and bear expert for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “There was better precipitation over the winter and spring and more berries, grasses and small succulent plants for the bears.”

Lackey said that while August 2007 saw close to 700 bear calls, so far



this year he has received less.

“This year is more like a normal year,” he said. “We’ll log a few hundred complaints all year long as opposed to several hundred a month.



Bears have acted similarly all across California this summer, said California Fish and Game Biologist Jason Holley. The California Department of Fish and Game issued 25 depredation permits so far this year compared to 40 last year, Holley said.

Depredation permits are issued to landowners or tenants who experience egregious bear damage to their property and allows them, or a contractor, to kill the offending bear.

“As far as numbers, this year doesn’t seem to be as bad as last year yet,” Holley said.

Lackey and Holley presented their findings at a joint meeting of the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners and California Fish and Game Commission Friday at the North Tahoe Conference Center in Kings Beach.

In addition to the number of bear incidents, Lackey also reported on findings from a study between NDOW and the University of Nevada, Reno. Since 1997 the two organizations have researched the behavior patterns of urban bears, resulting in insights to increased bear complaints during the past decade.

Since the early 1980s bear population in Nevada has increased six times ” from about 50 bears to 300, said Kevin Lansford, an NDOW wildlife specialist. In California it has more than doubled from 10,000 to 15,000 bears in 1982 to 25,000 to 30,000 bears in 2004.

But Lackey and Holley agreed that growth may not entirely explain bear complaint increases since 1990. Instead, bears are concentrating to urban areas with easily available food, Lackey said.

“There has been the misguided assumption that more complaints equaled an increased bear population,” said Carl Lackey, a biologist and bear expert for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “We now have a smaller population in outlying areas and higher density around the urban areas.”

The increase in complaints is the result of a “perfect storm of bear conflict,” Holley said. “Tahoe is somewhat of a sink for the bears,” he explaijned. “They come in and they don’t leave because they have such great availability of food and habitat.”

Both agencies said they use a combination of education and mitigation to help control bear incidents in urban areas. For a complete broadcast of the meeting visit http://www.cal-span.org.


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