Treed bears attract human audience | SierraSun.com

Treed bears attract human audience

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunA sow and two bear cubs check out onlookers after descending a tree in the back yard of a Sunnyside residence Tuesday.

Homeowner Rob Cronk was alone in his Sunnyside residence early Tuesday when he was startled awake around 4:30 a.m. by the sound of falling dishes.

“I almost had a heart attack,” Cronk said.

Fortunately Cronk’s home wasn’t the victim of a burglary, but instead a pit stop for a mama bear and her two small cubs. The three bears broke into his house through a closed window and rummaged through the refrigerator before Cronk called the Placer Sheriff’s Department for help.

With the encouragement of a deputy, the bear family finally exited the home and set up camp in a tree in Cronk’s yard and then in a neighbor’s yard. After several hours, BEAR League assistance and a bevy of photo-snapping spectators, the bear family went on its merry way ” for now.

Cronk’s West Shore home has seen its share of bear activity over the 25 years it’s been in his family, but particularly so this summer.

“It’s been a lot worse this year, for some reason. The bears are hungry or they have no water,” Cronk said.

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BEAR League representatives say they have received twice as many calls this summer than usual.

“The influx of calls over last summer has increased 100 percent,” said field representative Joel Avery.

The jump in bear reports is due in part to the increasing visibility of the BEAR League, but also because the level of bear activity has increased. Low snowfall this winter left natural food sources scarce; garbage in developed areas is readily available and entices the bears from their natural habitat into yards and Dumpsters.

Additionally, the Angora Fire on Tahoe’s South Shore was prime bear habitat and displaced about 40 black bears to Lake Tahoe’s East and West Shore, Avery said.

“Just like people lost their home, so did the bears,” Avery said. “We have to be patient with them while they find a new home.”

Sheriff’s dispatchers, too, keep busy with a half-dozen bear calls daily, particularly in the Talmont neighborhood.

“We normally tell people, if it tries to break in, call 9-1-1; if not, we tell them just to stay away,” said Public Safety Dispatcher Rolando Garcia of the Placer Sheriff’s Department.

One of the bigger challenges in handling bear calls in more populated areas is crowd control, which both the BEAR League and Placer sheriff’s officers help with.

“The best thing for bystanders to do is, first of all, not have a crowd gather … because when the bears do decide to come down, they might run off from somebody or run into the street,” Avery said.

Cronk himself helped move people along.

“I had to tell people to take the photo and please leave,” he said.

For more information or to report a bear issue, check out http://www.savebears.org or call the BEAR League at (530) 525-PAWS.