Bears enjoy snacks in Topaz trash

Three or four bears are prowling around Topaz Ranch Estates, but state wildlife officials are having difficulty trapping them because they find residents' trash far tastier than the bait.

Nevada Department of Wildlife Biologist Carl Lackey said bears have been peeking in windows and sleeping under trailers between Dumpster diving forays in the southern Douglas County community.

Bears are a problem because the area between Holbrook Junction and Jack Wright Pass is the route they use to get from the southern mountains into the Sierra Nevada.

"This is a major travel corridor for the bears and there are more and more people and more and more trash," Lackey said. "We've had traps down there, but we can't trap them. They don't need to go into the trap for some doughnuts, when they have whole Dumpsters they can dive in."

Douglas County has an ordinance requiring homeowners at Lake Tahoe to bear-proof their trash, but the ordinance does not extend to the rest of Douglas County.

Lackey said the bears don't recognize the boundary and are actually leaving Lake Tahoe for the valleys looking for unprotected trash.

"As more and more people bear-proof, the bears are moving to places that aren't as responsible with their trash," he said. "A jog over the mountains is nothing to them. We've been catching some former Tahoe bears in Markleeville and Washoe Valley. They can range 30 miles or more. But they're usually in no hurry."

Lackey said the division doesn't relocate bears but does aversion training on site.

"But it's a short-term fix," he said. "The idea is not to make them leave their home range, but to take the bold bears who are active during the day and hanging out on people's porches and make them more nocturnal. We don't want them approaching people for food. We want them to revert to their shy, nocturnal behavior, especially around people."

All captured bears are tagged and some get radio collars. Lackey said the latest thing is to attach a global positioning system recorder to the bear.

"They store 11 fixes a day on the collar so that when we retrieve the collar, we know exactly where these bears have been."


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