Bears find easy pickings in oldest town
March 8, 2007
Picking fruit and stowing garbage is the best way to Genoa-proof Sierra black bears, Nevada Division of Wildlife biologist Carl Lackey told town board members on Tuesday.
Lackey said Genoa is within 100 yards of classic bear habitat and once they strike garbage, they will be back again and again.
Lackey was part of a presentation on a bear-proof container ordinance under consideration by Douglas County commissioners. If approved, Douglas would be the first in Nevada to apply an ordinance countywide.
Under the ordinance, a resident would have to get a bear-proof container after a second complaint of bears in their garbage in two years. Residents would not have to purchase the containers upon approval of the ordinance, but they would if they were cited. After the second citation in two years, then fines would be attached to subsequent violations, according to Code Enforcement Officer Jay Hoogestraat.
Once black bears ranged over large segments of the state, but their habitat has been reduced to the areas along the Nevada-California border which includes Douglas, Washoe, Lyon and Mineral counties and Carson City.
At present there are bear-proof container rules in place in the county at Lake Tahoe and the Incline Village General Improvement District.
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Lackey said there are only 200-400 bears in the area, but that their density in urban areas is increasing.
“The majority of bear complaints come from Douglas County,” Lackey said. “There has been a steady rise in the number of complaints. During the drought years, more bears come into the urban areas looking for food.”
Lackey said 95 percent of bear complaints are garbage related.
“I’ve actually seen people lift a lid of a garbage can and then go back to their camera and wait for a bear with a camera,” he said. “Bears are extremely tolerant of people, that’s why we haven’t had any bear attacks. They try to avoid people at all costs.”
However, bears do enjoy people food and amenities people have, such as hot tubs and coy ponds.
“A lot of our black bears are bigger than grizzlies,” he said.
Lackey uses aversion therapy to discourage bears from entering urban areas.
“Relocation doesn’t work,” he said. “Ninety percent of bears will come back to the point of capture. Sometimes the animal will beat the truck back. If we kill a bear, within a week another one takes over the territory. The number of bears isn’t increasing, their density in the urban areas is increasing.”
Hoogestraat said that since the bear ordinance has been implemented in Tahoe Township, he could not report that the county has required any resident to get a bear-proof container.
“Hopefully, people get a violation and do something about it,” he said. “We respond to complaints, but we’re not going out looking for violations. But once we have a problem property, we will keep an eye on it.”
Douglas Disposal doesn’t carry bear-proof totes, nor do they sell or manufacture bear-proof enclosures.
One of the challenges for garbage collection is having enclosures close enough to the road and yet far enough from the home to keep the bear from associating garbage with the house.