Before I launch into a lesson on existing with bears in Tahoe, let me say that the weather up this way is fantastic. We have cool breezes and super clear air. Last night was the final concert in the Village at Squaw Valley. The Blues Monsters played to a large crowd that soaked up every minute of the concert. We are all sad that the music and dancing is over at Squaw for the summer.
A lot of controversy has been swirling around the past couple of years with respect to our black bear population. Lovers of mountain terrain have populated bear country creating a friction between the bears and those who live and vacation in Tahoe. People love bears and fear them at the same time. Some want to feed them and take photos of them to hang on the wall or send home to friends and family. The problem for the bears is that our wish to attract them and interact with them in a fearless and friendly way causes them to change their habits. We leave trash out in cans, or in large unlocked bins, baiting them to take the easy eats instead of moving on and eating roots, leaves, small animals, bird eggs, and berries (depending on the time of year). Evidently, the more human food and trash they eat, the more cubs a mother produces. Of course, this increases the population in an un-natural way and causes additional problems between the two parties.
In an effort to stop bears from eating our trash, locks have been installed on garbage bins (it only works if people lock the bins), steel, bear resistant, trash enclosures are now mandated for all new construction and used by many local homeowners to keep bears from getting into their trash. The bears have grown accustomed to eating our food. Therein lies the problem. Bears are not dumb. They have learned that houses contain food and breaking into a house to obtain food is generally pretty easy. Some bears are gentle and enter a home through an window or door. They may leave without creating a huge mess. Other bears break into homes by pushing in sliding doors or wood front doors (easy for a large strong bear) or just breaking a window and crawling into the house. One of the worst things that can happen when a bear enters a home is that a door closes behind them trapping the bear in a space. This freaks out the bear who tends to go nuts trying to exit and in the process, destroys property. Of course, one does not want to stand between a cub and its mother, inside or outside a property, as the mother will defend the cub, even if you are not interested in harming either. A bear will not harm a person who is not attacking it, or teasing it. They are not really interested in harming human beings.
Unfortunately, many of us do not take the maximum precautions necessary to protect our property from the bear population. Even taking all the precautions suggested might not prevent a bear from entering your property, but it should limit your exposure. Obviously, closing and locking doors (a dead bolt on an exterior door helps) is a start. Closing window coverings so bear cannot see into the house also helps. Leaving any type of food or garbage outside of the home when it is not in a bear resistant enclosure is just dumb. I have been told that a bear can smell food that has been sitting (perhaps spilled) on a deck or other surface weeks or months after it has been cleaned up. Bears seem to be able to overcome some of the preventative measures that have been suggested in the past. We put Pine Sol out in front of doors or washed down doors and trim with this substance for awhile, but the bears seem to have figured that smell out and just walk through it. We have put out nail boards (plywood boards filled with nails poking through the surface) in front of low windows and doors. This may detour them, but I think they just learn to stand on the nails with time. Motion activated barking dog devices or loud alarms seem to work to an extent, but they are not fool proof. Again, a bear may learn the sound and just put up with it while it is eating your leftovers. Some people have air horns they use to scare off the bears (this works when you are home and a bear is looking through your window or scratching at a door), but you have to be home.
Currently, the most effective way of turning bears away from your property is to install an electric fence around the house. Some people are trying electrified mats placed in front of exterior doors to deter the animals. I think these may work as long as the bear cannot jump over the mat. People can walk over the mats with rubber shoes so they can stay electrified while you are home.
I am not recommending any company, as I have not used them in the past, but other people in the area have hired them to install electric fences. If you are interested in trying the most current preventative measure for your property, then you may want to contact.
- DS Construction 530-448-9127 (Dan Sheehan)
- Bear Busters 530-592-9844
- The Bear League 530-525-7297
For more information on bears check out the Bear League’s website:
It is never too late for all of us to be responsible and make every effort to allow both our bears and our people to live together.
Enjoy your day.