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Lake Tahoe CA: How to keep black bears off property

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It’s about to be a “busy spring” in the Lake Tahoe area as black bears go on the hunt for food, the Tahoe Interagency Bear Team said.

“Bears that have been wintering in their dens will emerge soon and they will be hungry!” the team said in a Monday news release.

The Tahoe Interagency Bear Team is a partnership between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Parks, the Nevada Department of Wildlife, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the U.S. Forest Service.

Why are black bears on the move?

Every fall, black bears dramatically increase their calorie intake to fatten up before winter, the bear team said. Over the course of the winter, the furry predators use up those fat stores during hibernation.

“Come spring, their body mass will have naturally decreased and as a result, bears will be on the lookout for easily accessible food sources to help rebuild those fat reserves,” the team said. “Bears will instinctively seek out areas where they can find fresh greens like grasses and (flowering plants), which can bring them into neighborhoods.”

In the Tahoe area, bears are known to venture into human-populated spaces.

In 2022, a black bear stole a loaf of bread at a Tahoe campground and in 2023, a bear entered an apartment in Tahoe’s Kings Beach and took a nap in a bed.

How to keep bears away

“As bears make their way through human-populated areas, please be vigilant about cleaning up and securing bear attractants,” the Tahoe Interagency Bear Team said.

This includes taking down bird feeders to avoid attracting bears and properly disposing garbage.

“Proper disposal of garbage can be difficult when snow piles up on the roads,” the team said. “Tahoe Basin residents should take a few minutes to dig out bear boxes to allow garbage to be easily secured inside.”

You should also make sure car windows are closed and doors are locked, with no visible food or coolers inside.

Building doors and windows should be secured to prevent bears from breaking in, the team advised.

Other tips include using bear-resistant garbage cans, managing fruit trees and not leaving pet food outside.

“The bottom line is that the Lake Tahoe Basin is bear country,” the team said, adding that its residents and visitors’ responsibilities to clean up and secure food and trash.

“Good habits will help ensure Tahoe bears remain healthy and wild,” the bear team said.

Why can’t bears eat human food?

Bears are integral to Lake Tahoe’s ecosystem, according to the bear team.

“Bears help spread berry seeds through their scat, transport pollen, clean up animal carcasses after winter, eat insects, and provide other essential functions of nature,” it said.

When bears get into trash and pet or human food, that not only interrupts this natural process but can also damage the bear’s health, teeth and ability to remain wild.

Bears can get sick or even die if they unknowingly eat indigestible items from people’s trash such as foil, paper, plastics and metal.

A bear looks sick. What do I do?

During the spring, the Tahoe Interagency Bear Team said, people may see bears that look “unhealthy, sick or orphaned.”

Wildlife professionals at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife or the Nevada Department of Wildlife have “the training, expertise, and veterinary resources to assess a bear’s condition and transport it for care,” the team said.

To report bear health concerns or human-bear conflicts, call:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife at 916-358-2917

California State Parks: 916-358-1300

Nevada Department of Wildlife: 775-688-BEAR (2327)

You can also report online using the Wildlife Incident Reporting system.

If there’s an immediate threat, call 911.

What do you want to know about life in Sacramento? Ask our service journalism team your top-of-mind questions in the module below or email servicejournalists@sacbee.com.

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