Jason Holley, DFG Supervising Wildlife Biologist, (916) 212-1663
Brian Naslund, DFG Warden Captain, (916) 358-2908
Marc Kenyon, DFG Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3515
Dana Michaels, DFG Communications, (916) 322-2420
The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) reminds people enjoying the Lake Tahoe Basin to take precautions to avoid black bear encounters. This area is prime black bear habitat, and many of these wild animals are not afraid of humans. Recently, a bear had to be killed after a man in his tent was injured as the bear tried to break in.
Bears are constantly searching for food, which humans inadvertently make obtainable to them. It is important for everyone to avoid creating odors that attract bears. They are attracted not only to food but also perfume, cologne and containers that once held food.
Yearling California black bear
“A bear’s fate is almost always sealed once it associates humans with food,” said Marc Kenyon, DFG statewide bear program coordinator. “It’s unfortunate when a bear becomes a threat and has to be killed because people either haven’t learned how to appropriately store food and trash, or simply don’t care.”
Last year DFG staff logged more than 5,200 hours handling black bear nuisance calls in the Lake Tahoe region alone. Bears’ attempts to obtain human food cause the majority of public safety incidents involving bears. California’s growing black bear population is now estimated at more than 30,000. DFG biologists have ramped-up staff and study efforts to learn more about urban black bear trends while providing increased public response throughout the Tahoe Basin. Black bears are located in most of the state where suitable habitat exists and bear-human encounters are not isolated to wilderness settings.
DFG wardens and biologists respond to numerous wildlife feeding issues throughout the state. Access to human food or garbage, whether it is overflowing from a campground or residential dumpster or in the form of snacks in a tent, is the most common bear attractant. When wild animals are allowed to feed on human food and garbage, they lose their natural ways – often resulting in death for the animal.
Feeding wildlife or allowing wildlife access to human food provides unnatural food sources, habituates animals to humans and can change animal behavior from foraging for food in the wild to relying on human food sources in or near urban areas, which can lead to bears breaking into cars or houses to seek out food. It is also illegal to intentionally feed wildlife in California.
DFG’s Keep Me Wild campaign was developed in part to address the increasing number of conflicts between black bears and people. The campaign provides important tips for living and recreating safely in bear habitat, and advice on what to do if you encounter one of these wild animals. Please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/bear.html for more information.
Bear Country Precautions:
- Keep a close watch on children and teach them what to do if they encounter a bear.
- While hiking, make noise to avoid a surprise encounter with a bear.
- Never keep food in your tent.
- Store food and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle.
- Keep a clean camp by cleaning up and storing food and garbage immediately after meals.
- Use bear-proof garbage cans whenever possible or store your garbage in a secure location with your food.
- Don’t bury or burn excess food; bears will still be attracted to the residual smell.
- Garbage should be packed out of camp if no trash receptacles are available.
- Never approach a bear or pick up a bear cub.
- Do not attempt to attract a bear to your location; observe the animal and take pictures from afar.
- If you encounter a bear, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to appear as large as possible.
- If attacked, fight back.
If a bear harms a person in any way, immediately call 911.