Bear problem lies with source of food |

Bear problem lies with source of food

Residents expressed outrage recently over the placement of a trap in a Truckee subdivision to catch a nuisance bear which had damaged private property.

Their sentiments, and the situation itself, reflect a growing problem in the Truckee-Tahoe area. Bears and humans share the same habitat here in the mountains, and it is up to the people to be responsible tenants.

A permit to kill two bears in Homewood, which had become regular visitors in the area due to the availability of food and garbage, was issued after a visitor complained that the animals had tried to break into his rented home.

Several neighbors were outraged that two seemingly friendly bears had been needlessly killed. They were quick to blame the visitor who notified authorities about the bears and thus started the permit process. They were also quick to blame the government officials charged with the unpleasant task of eliminating problem bears.

California Fish and Game officials were, once again, stuck in the middle. They have little recourse but to euthanize bears that learn to rely on our carelessness.

Trapping and relocating bears simply does not work. Sadly, once a bear learns that food is available from humans, it will repeatedly seek food and become emboldened in its effort.

We can’t change bear behavior; only our own.

Until people – no matter whether they be locals, seasonal residents or visitors – stop feeding bears and being careless with their garbage, bears will be killed.

Any longtime Truckee local who is reckless with bear-enticing scraps or trash is every bit as culpable in a bear’s death as a careless first-time visitor.

The nature lover who knowingly leaves “treats” for bears is ultimately no different than the hunter who trees and shoots bears.

It’s a shame that a simple message – don’t feed the bears and dispose of your trash properly – is beyond the grasp of so many otherwise intelligent and nature-loving people.

And it’s a shame that education and respect for bears haven’t been enough to prevent us from, in effect, killing them.

It’s high time for a change.

All homes could be required by ordinance to have metal, bear-proof garbage containers. These could be paid for through a fee added to disposal bills.

A tax break could be given to people who install bear-proof trash receptacles. Littering fines could be substantially increased and more broadly defined to include people who don’t take care of their trash properly.

Public dumpsters could be strategically placed in neighborhoods to allow departing visitors to dispose of their trash, as many rentals require that the garbage be taken out before renters check out.

Bears could be killed in public view. Yes, it’s a gruesome idea, but exposure to the harsh realities of our actions might make us think about ways to work together to protect these magnificent animals.

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