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Drought Blamed for Black Bears Eating Garbage Near Tahoe


Friday, January 17, 2014   

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – Black bears eating garbage and roaming around populated areas near Lake Tahoe when they should be hibernating is the result of Nevada's severe drought, according to Chris Healy, public information officer for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

Healy says the drought has diminished the bear's natural food supply of nuts and berries – and the bears are staying awake because they haven't eaten enough to sustain their hibernation.

"We have had black bears in the Tahoe Basin that have actually either not hibernated, or in most cases hibernate just a little bit, and then wake up on garbage night,” he explains. “Basically, follow the garbage truck around, eat for a couple of days, and then go back into hibernation."

Healy adds another problem is that some of the residents are feeding the bears.

He says it's the worst thing to do because the animals can become dependent on human food and turn their backs on the nuts and berries.

The state Legislature passed a law in recent years that can bring a fine of up to $500 for feeding a bear.

Healy says there is also a city ordinance under consideration in Incline Village that would require residents to bear-proof their garbage containers. He says if the drought persists the bears won't have enough food to eat this summer.

"These bears that emerge will not have the quantity of natural food that they're going to need, which will set us up for a potentially large nuisance-bear year, this coming year," he explains.

He says there are no reports of bear attacks this winter.

According to the Department of Wildlife, Nevada has a black bear population estimated at between 400 and 700 animals.

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