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Bear season under way, eight bruins already killed in Nevada's Sierra valleys

By Jason Shueh                                                                                                                 Friday, June 11, 2010
Sierra Sun
Bear season once again   It's bear season once again in the Lake Tahoe Basin.  
  Sun File Photo

Bear rally

The BEAR League will host a rally on Saturday, June 12, to protest the recent killing of a bear cub by Tahoma resident John Wilkinson, who shot the bruin — estimated to be about 75 pounds by California Fish and Game, and 250 pounds by Wilkinson's wife, Sydney Wilkinson — after he said it was breaking into his home.

BEAR League Director Ann Bryant said locals are encouraged to attend the rally, which aims to urge the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office and Cal Fish and Game to press charges against Wilkinson, who reportedly left the bear's carcass in a nearby ditch. The rally takes place at 5 p.m. at Marie Sluchak Park in Tahoma


INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — With the black bear death toll this spring already at eight in Nevada's Sierra valleys, regional wildlife officials are warning Tahoe residents to be extra cautious this spring when it comes to trash and food maintenance.

Carl Lackey, a wildlife biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, said the department has killed eight bears this spring, mainly due to the late-season cold weather and snow conditions have pushed bears into the valleys, and residents and visitors locked up their trash or food too late, which drew the bruins into cars and homes.

“It has been a little bit different this year,” Lackey said. “So far I've seen an increase in the number of bear events in the valleys and I attribute that to the late winter weather conditions.”

One or two bears is normal for this time of season, Lackey said, but eight is “far too high.”

Adding to the problem, he said, is Washoe County has no ordinance requiring bear-proof trash receptacles.

Cristen Langner, a wildlife biologist for California Fish and Game, said this year the California side of the Tahoe basin has had three permitted bear deaths, not uncommon for this time of the year.Each of the deaths was also a result of residents not locking up food trash or food, she said.

Langner echoed Lackey's words of caution and said residents should always be bear aware and keep doors locked and food secure.

“The big thing is that every time these bears are successful (finding stored trash or food) it just reinforces that behavior,” she said.

Hot spots around the basin are centered mostly on South Lake Tahoe, she said, as well as Tahoma and the Highway 89 corridor near the Squaw Valley and Alpine resorts.

“That's really bad news,” said Ann Bryant, president of the Homewood-based BEAR League, about the valley bear deaths. “I'm pretty shocked because it's only going to get worse as the season goes on.”

Bryant said based on calls, sightings and on-site observations, the BEAR League has observed more newborns this year than any other, as well as an increased number of sightings and conflicts.

Usually bears aren't spotted out of hibernation until May or June, Bryant said, but she's seen them as early as March and April this year.

 Bear safety tips

Bears are always a constant worry and concern for Tahoe homeowners during the spring. Below are some helpful bear tips and tricks from the California Department of Fish and Game's “Keep Me Wild” campaign, a program launched to discourage and limit wildlife contact.

• Store garbage in bear-proof containers, or store garbage in your garage until pick-up

• Keep food indoors or in airtight and odor-free containers

• Put away picnic leftovers; clean BBQ grills

• Keep pet food inside, and bird feeders away

• Pick up fallen tree fruit as soon as possible, or protect fruit trees with electric fencing

• Remove cosmetic fragrances and other attractants, including bird feeders and compost piles

• Install or request bear-proof trash containers

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