CDFW News | Lake Tahoe bears looking for winter food

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Lake Tahoe bears looking for winter food

Keep Tahoe Bears Wild!

LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev. — Fall is underway in the Tahoe Basin and Lake Tahoe bears are hungry! Fall is the time of year when bears enter hyperphagia, a phase they go through when they seek out massive amounts of calories before entering their winter dens. It is important that residents and visitors be aware of this increased bear activity and take steps to prevent bears from accessing human food and garbage.

Members of the Tahoe Bear Interagency Team recently attended the 6th International Human-Bear Conflict Workshop in South Lake Tahoe to discuss and learn about all aspects of human-bear interaction and how best to to share the landscape.

“Binge eating is in full swing,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Sara Holm. “Many bears were seen by workshop participants scavenging for food from unsecured bins. It’s disappointing how people are still making it easy for these bears to get the wrong kind of calories. »

Bears prepare for hibernation

In the fall, bears are very active as they hunt for fish, seeds, berries, grubs, and other protein-rich natural foods. Human food should not fall into this category. Learn more by watching and sharing the following YouTube video: https://youtu.be/SeL1U67XNdY.

Hibernation, or torpor as it is more accurately called for bears, occurs in late fall or early winter when the weather gets colder and natural food becomes less available. This slows down a bear’s metabolism and allows it to reduce its activity in its den and live off its fat stores.

Habituated bears, males in particular, often leave the den during this time to search for readily available food. The females, which will give birth at the beginning of the year, are more likely to stay in their den. This could explain why Lake Tahoe residents still see some bear activity in the winter.

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During binge eating, bears can be very focused and persistent in obtaining food. They often spend most of the day trying to eat, which makes them more vulnerable to collisions with vehicles and interactions with people. Don’t try to defend a food source from a hungry bear. Be sure to continue to use and lock dumpsters and bear-resistant trash cans. Store trash that won’t fit in full containers, whether you’re at a rental, at the beach, or at the start of a trail. Never feed bears. It is illegal, unhealthy and can lead to human-bear conflicts such as home/vehicle break-ins or physical contact. Let the bears find food in the wild and give them space.

Bear handlers at work

Bear handlers and law enforcement officers may be hazing bears. If you see these officials yelling at bears, using horns, or chasing them away, it is to try to get these bears out of populated areas or to give them a negative experience with humans instead of a food reward.

Officers may fire non-lethal beanbags when they deem it safe to do so. This may temporarily deter bears or force them to leave the area and although it may sting, it is not intended to cause injury. Bears often climb trees to escape danger. This is the time to step back, get to safety and let them down on their own. Hazing bears that are in the trees will not work and sends a mixed message to the bear. Authorities are doing their best to keep people and bears safe.

Living and recreating in the bear country of the Tahoe Basin is a year-round responsibility. Please do your part to help us keep Tahoe bears wild! Here are some helpful tips to follow:

Never feed wildlife. Feeding wild animals often brings animals into conflict with humans and attracts wild animals to human homes and neighborhoods where they may be struck by vehicles and encounter other human hazards.

  • Store all trash in bear-proof bins and close them properly, preferably bear boxes. Ask local waste disposal companies about new incentives and payment programs for bear boxes. In California, visit the South Tahoe Refuse Bear Information website. In Nevada, residents should check the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s website: Living with Bears.
  • Never leave groceries, pet food, trash, or anything smelly in vehicles, campsites, or tents.
  • Always be sure to lock vehicles and close windows. Understand that eating — even drinking coffee — in your car often leaves lingering 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 house is unoccupied.
  • Vegetable gardens, compost piles, fruit trees and chickens can attract bears. Use electric fencing where permitted to keep bears out. Avoid hanging bird feeders.
  • Always place trash in bear-proof dumpsters at campgrounds or bear-proof containers at campgrounds (storage lockers/bear boxes) and close and lock after each use.
  • Store food in bear-resistant hard-sided storage boxes while recreating in the backcountry.
  • Give wildlife space. Enjoy wildlife from a distance, especially when they have young with them.
  • Leave the little bears alone, mom could be just around the corner.
  • Secure crawl spaces and winterize your home, including removing all food when unoccupied.

To report human-bear conflicts in California, contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) at 916-358-2917 or report online using CDFW’s Wildlife Incident Reporting (WIR) system at https ://apps.wildlife.ca.gov/wir. Non-emergency wildlife interactions at California state parks can be reported to the public dispatcher at 916-358-1300. To report human-bear conflicts in Nevada, contact the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) at 775-688-BEAR (2327). If the problem is a direct threat or an emergency, call 911 to seek immediate assistance from local law enforcement.

For more information on peaceful coexistence with Lake Tahoe bears, visit TahoeBears.org.

CDFW photo by Travis VanZant

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Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858

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