By Dylan Silver
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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE —The bears are awake and they’re hungry. Numerous bear incidents have been reported to Tahoe’s Bear League and the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center, including one that could’ve ended in tragedy.
“They’re going to be hungry, and there’s not much to eat out there, so they’re going to be getting into trouble,” said Denise Upton, a volunteer with the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center and a trained Bear League member.
Just two weeks ago, a mother bear and three cubs became trapped in a garbage compactor near Stateline after the chute door had been left open. Upton responded to the call. Before the bears could be freed, a chain locking the larger door had to be removed, she said.
“It was almost comical,” Upton said. “She put her big head out. The maintenance guys ran.”
The mother bear climbed out, looked around and kind of paused, Upton said. Upton wasn’t sure what the big female was waiting for, and then the three cubs tumbled out, she said. The bear family was chased back into the woods.
“The problem is, everybody is really lax right now because they don’t realize (the bears) are out,” said Ann Bryant, Bear League director.
Bears have been reported on decks, under houses and in garages already this year. A bear was hit by a car, but sustained no injuries, Bryant said. Though the weather hasn’t exactly signaled spring, the bears are still coming out from hibernation, she said.
“No matter how much snow we have, they always come out in the middle of March,” Bryant said.
With the deep snow, bears will not be able to eat the sprouting vegetation that’s typical of their diet this time of year.
There is a chance that if the bears don’t find food they will go back to their dens, Bryant said. But they will be looking for anything they can possibly eat, she added.
The Bear League and the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center are asking residents to not make their trash available to bears, put away bird feeders, and make sure doors to garages and houses are secured.
“I know how hard it is to not feed the birds in winter,” Bryant said. “But they are hoarders. They’ll be OK.”
Upton recommends the twist top garbage cans. Though they’re not as armored as a bear box, they still make it very difficult for bears to access trash, she said.
Bryant and the Bear League are featured in Animal Planet’s mini-series “Blonde vs. Bear,” which airs again on the channel March 30. She has gotten calls from across the country from people telling her that they learned a lot from the show, Bryant said. She’d like to encourage Tahoe residents to watch, she added.
For more information on how to bear-proof homes, and bear facts, visit the Bear League’s Website, Savebears.org.