Bears stocking up for long winter’s nap

Security footage of a regular visitor to the Gardnerville AM-PM.

Security footage of a regular visitor to the Gardnerville AM-PM.

Humans won’t be the only ones chowing down over the holidays.

As bears near the end of their fattening up in preparation for hibernation, they are raiding garbage cans and anything else that has something to eat.

On Nov. 10, a deputy followed a trail of toppled trash cans through Topaz Ranch Estates to find a bear at the other end.

“We get calls from people reporting bears in or around neighborhoods from Verdi down through Topaz Lake and over to Hawthorne year after year in the fall, when bears spend all their time and energy building up an average of 20,000 calories per day,” said NDOW Bear Biologist Heather Reich. “During this time, bears’ natural instincts bring them down to the valleys in search of remaining berries, insects, carrion, and any source of food to build up those fat reserves. While human food sources should not fall into this category, unsecured attractants in neighborhoods, including garbage, fruit trees, bird feeders, and much more provide bears with an easy meal.”

Bears in Western Nevada begin to hibernate in mid-November. But male bears do not typically go to den until mid-December. Therefore, the agency needs everyone to remain vigilant to deter bears from their property. Bears easily travel irrigation ditches and natural ravines that lead into towns. Everyone should be aware that bears may be in the area.

“Bears naturally hibernate in the winter as food sources disappear,” Reich said. “It has everything to do with food availability, not the weather. When food sources are abundant in neighborhoods, then a bear has no reason to den.”

NDOW asks everyone to follow these steps to keep bears wild:

• Secure your garbage: 95 percent of bear calls are garbage related. Securing and bear proofing your trash is the best thing you can do to deter bears and keep them wild. Washoe County Waste Management offers bear-resistant garbage cans that can be left out. You can request one by calling (775) 329-8822. In the meantime, keep your garbage cans stored in a locked shed or garage and only put it out the morning of trash pickup.

• Be aware: Douglas County has a garbage ordinance in place which requires residents to secure their trash to prevent bears from getting into them. Failure to do so can result in fines. Repeated violations can be reported to (775) 328-6101.

• Remove bird feeders from dusk to dawn.

• Remove other attractants from your yard (fruit from fruit trees, pet food, clean dirty barbeques, trash, and all other food/scented items.)

• As a precaution remove food, trash, and other scented items from vehicles. Keep vehicle windows up and doors locked when not in use.

• Install electric fencing around beehives, chicken coops, and livestock. For more information click here:

• If you see bears near your home, scare them away: From an open window or safe distance, yell loudly and/or bang pots and pans. Yelling things like “Hey bear!”, “Go bear!”, “Get out of here bear!” alerts those around you to what’s going on. You can also trigger your car alarm to try to scare them off as well. These methods can help “negatively condition” bears to humans and houses and teach them that it is not okay to enter these areas.

For more information and resources for living in bear country, visit our website at


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