Garage doors

Why Tahoe Residents Should Be Worried About Increased Bear Activity This Spring

Lake Tahoe residents could see more bear activity this spring as large animals are expected to emerge from winter hibernation and return to areas from which they were displaced by the Caldor Fire, warned Tuesday. California Fish and Wildlife officials.

The Caldor Fire erupted in August in the small town of Pollock Pines, El Dorado County, and crept all the way to South Lake Tahoe, burning nearly 222,000 mountain acres and damaging hundreds of homes and of cottages. The fire also tore through the 2,000-acre Sierra-at-Tahoe ski area, leaving the future of the resort in question.

Many bears fled the Lake Tahoe area due to the fire, but some managed to stay and were left to roam free in evacuated neighborhoods and empty homes, state officials said.

As a result, bears broke into cars and homes in search of food and “suddenly there were no humans screaming, making noise, chasing or scaring them, and no electrical deterrents due power outages,” state officials said in a news release.

Some homeowners have reported thousands of dollars in property damage from bears breaking into windows, garage doors and cars, state officials said.

Last year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted an “Operation Trap/Tag/Mist” in South Lake Tahoe and tagged and moved bears to other unburned areas to try “to interrupt the cycle of burglaries and food rewards that went unchecked during evacuations”.

State officials annoyed the bears with horns, paintball guns and non-lethal cartridges in an effort to prevent future human interaction and bears wanting to return to South Lake Tahoe.

But not all of the bears have been caught, and despite efforts to keep bears from returning, state officials said these creatures “are so smart that once they learn something, they it’s hard to break their bad habits”.

“The lack of consequences during the evacuation period will have ripple and lasting effects on bear behavior for seasons to come,” state officials said.

Residents and visitors have been warned to be proactive in preventing bears from re-entering homes and to strive to peacefully co-exist with the creatures.

Here’s what you can do to keep bears out of your home or business, according to state wildlife officers:

If you are visiting Lake Tahoe:

• Don’t feed bears or other wildlife — it’s against the law.

• Do not approach bears or cubs. Leave them alone.

• Prevent break-ins by removing scented items, such as food wraps, sunscreen, hand lotion, etc. Lock your car doors and close the windows.

If you are a resident or business owner in South Lake Tahoe:

• Use bear-proof trash cans.

• Keep garbage cans locked at all times.

• Refrain from having unsafe attractants, such as bird feeders.

• Close your windows and lock your home or business.

• Never leave pet food or any food or drink outside your home/office/car.

Jessica Flores (her) is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @jessmflores