Wildlife officials: 40 bears killed this year in, around Tahoe area | TheUnion.com

Wildlife officials: 40 bears killed this year in, around Tahoe area

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – Incidents of bear/human interactions are on the rise in Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada wildlife officials said last week.

Carl Lackey, biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, said 29 bears have been killed in western Nevada – one of them in Incline Village – in 2010, a number that is “a little on the high side,” he said.

“On average, about 23 bears are killed a year,” Lackey said in a Wednesday, Oct. 6, interview. “This is definitely the highest we’ve seen in a while.”

The number represents all documented bear deaths, including agency kills, depredation permits and car accidents, Lackey said.

“Bears are becoming more of a nuisance and they are getting smarter,” he said. “They are changing locations and seem to be more aware.”

Lackey praised Incline residents for incorporating bear-safe trash receptacles and the Incline Village General Improvement District for increasing awareness of methods to prevent bear incursions in homes, but added it takes only a handful of people to make attractants available, thereby enticing bruins out of the wilderness.

“You’ll always get bears that will investigate neighborhoods,” Lackey said. “As long as they don’t get a food reward, they’ll resort to natural food sources. However, if they get food in neighborhoods the problems persist.”

A year ago, according to previous reports, NDOW “handled” 36 bears near the end of 2009 season; of that total, 21 were captured and released. The remaining 15 bears were killed; either hit by cars (8), killed per the department’s three-strike-rule for problem bears (3) or killed because they posed a public safety concern (3). Three of the six bears were killed in Incline.

A total of 44 depredation permits have been obtained this season on the California side of Lake Tahoe – 22 apiece in Placer and El Dorado counties, said Christen Langner, wildlife biologist with California Department of Fish and Game.

Three bears have been killed in Placer County and eight in El Dorado County, Langner said, as a result of the permits, the number of which taken out far exceeds previous years.

“There is a clear increase in bear incidents,” said Langner. “We’ve also seen a large number of bears break into houses while there are people in the house, which may account for the increase in permits.”

Langner said the amount of permits does not encompass the amount of calls Fish and Game has received.

“This only accounts for the people who want to take out a depredation permit,” she said.

According to a recent population analysis conducted by Fish and Game, the black bear population has nearly doubled in the last 10-15 years, said Langner.

“(Female bears) that used to have one or two cubs are now having three or four cubs due to the amount of energy available in the region,” Langner said. “The sows are teaching the cubs how to break into houses.

“We are reaching a point of critical mass,” she continued. “Sooner or later the situation will come to a head.”

Langner also noted that hibernation season is a couple months away, and more reported incidents will likely ensue in the intervening period.

A year ago, Fish and Game issued about 40 bear depredation permits by the end of the season, with about half resulting in bears being killed. The permits spanned Nevada, Placer and El Dorado counties, potentially going as far north as Truckee and as far south as Markleeville.

Matthew Renda writes for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza in Incline Village, Nev., a sister paper to The Union.

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