State urges visitors, residents to be bear aware |

State urges visitors, residents to be bear aware

A black bear with healthy teeth is shown.
CDFW / California State Parks
A diet of human food and waste can negatively impact the health of black bear's teeth. A black bear with healthy teeth is shown.
CDFW / California State Parks

With warming weather, Lake Tahoe’s black bear population is becoming more active and on the lookout for easy food sources.

With bears emerging from their dens, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued a list of guidelines for visitors and locals to help keep Tahoe’s bears wild.

“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife would like to remind both visitors and residents that the Lake Tahoe Basin is home to hundreds of black bears. Unfortunately, it only takes a few careless people to help make a bear accustomed to human food sources,” said Jason Holley, supervising wildlife biologist for the department’s North Central Region, in a news release. “We ask for your help to keep Tahoe’s bears wild. Do not feed or approach wildlife and please store food and garbage appropriately.”

During this time of year, according to the fish and wildlife department, bears seek out freshly sprouted grasses, which often bring them in contact with human occupied areas. Furthermore, these areas often offer bears an easy meal in the form of garbage.

“Bears are an important part of the Lake Tahoe ecosystem and allowing them access to human food and garbage is a detriment to natural resources in the region,” said the fish and wildlife department in its release. “Bears help spread berry seeds through their scat, transport pollen, eat insects and provide other essential functions of nature. As a result, if they find and access human food and garbage, bird seed, pet food, coolers and other sources of human food, the Tahoe Basin loses the benefits bears offer to its natural processes. Bears need to be wild animals rather than garbage disposals, especially since these unnatural food sources can impact their overall health and damage or rot their teeth.”

Bears that unknowingly eat indigestible items from human trash can damage their internal systems, according to the department, possibly leading to death.

The wildlife department is offering the following tips to help keep Tahoe’s bears wild:

▪ Never feed wildlife.

▪ Store all garbage in properly closed bear-resistant garbage containers, preferably bear boxes. Inquire with local refuse companies about bear box incentives and payment programs.

▪ Never leave leftovers, groceries, animal feed, garbage or anything scented in vehicles, campsites, or tents.

▪ Be sure to always lock vehicles and close the windows. Keep in mind eating in the car leaves lingering food odors that attract bears.

▪ Keep barbecue grills clean and stored in a garage or shed when not in use.

▪ Keep doors and windows closed and locked when the home is unoccupied.

▪ Vegetable gardens, compost piles, orchards and chickens may attract bears. Use electric fences where allowed to keep bears out. Refrain from hanging bird feeders.

▪ When camping, always store food (including pet food), drinks, toiletries, coolers, cleaned grills, cleaned dishes, cleaning products, and all other scented items in bear-resistant containers (storage lockers/bear boxes) provided at campsites. Bear resistant coolers that come equipped with padlock devices should always be locked to meet bear resistant requirements.

▪ Always place garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters in campgrounds or in bear-resistant containers at campsites (storage lockers/bear boxes), and close and lock after each use.

▪ Store food in bear-resistant food storage canisters while recreating in the backcountry.

▪ Give wildlife space, especially when they have young with them.

▪ Leave small bears alone, mom might be right around the corner.

To report human-bear conflicts in California, contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at 916-358-2917 or report online using the Wildlife Incident Reporting system at

Non-emergency wildlife interactions in California State Parks can be reported to public dispatch at 916-358-1300. To report human-bear conflicts in Nevada, contact the Nevada Department of Wildlife at 775-688-BEAR (2327). If the issue is an immediate threat, call the local sheriff’s department or 911.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at or 530-550-2643

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