Year of the bear
It’s 11 p.m. Do you know where your garbage is?
More specifically, has your neighborhood nuisance bear figured out how to forage through your trash for easy eats?
The free food will become more difficult to come by as Douglas County implements Nevada’s first county-wide ordinance mandating bear-proof trash containers under certain conditions.
The law took effect Nov. 29.
“We hope with a good winter and voluntary compliance, the bear problems will decrease,” said Jay Hoogestraat, county code enforcement officer.
The ordinance is voluntary unless a property owner has received two verifiable complaints of unsecured trash within two years.
After the second offense, the county will require the responsible party to pay for and install a bear-proof container within 90 days or face a $100 fine.
The towns of Minden and Gardnerville are exempt.
About 40 people attended a workshop last week sponsored by county officials and the Business Council of Douglas County to address what’s become an epidemic of black bears invading Carson Valley neighborhoods, toppling trash cans for food and wreaking destruction on some residences.
“This has been a banner year,” said state wildlife biologist Carl Lackey.
Despite the skyrocketing number of bear complaints, Lackey said there hasn’t been an increase in the number of black bears in the Eastern Sierra, but their habitat is shrinking.
“This area has the second highest density of bears in all of North America,” Lackey said. “The bear population has redistributed in response to a year-round, reliable replenished resource. There’s a very, very high caloric reliable food source which is replenished every single Tuesday (trash) night.”
He dispelled the myth that wildlife agencies move nuisance bears from area to area.
“It doesn’t work,” Lackey said. “One-hundred percent of them return to the capture site.”
Bettyarlene Rodal and Jim Sajdak, volunteers with the BEAR Assistance League offered to attend neighborhood gatherings to assist residents with bear-proofing their homes.
Rodal recommended airhorns and paintball guns as safe adversity training methods to chase off the intrusive bears.
“I’ve got a 70-some-year-old woman armed with a paintball gun at her house,” Rodal said. “She just fires if off into the air whenever there’s a bear in the neighborhood.”
Sajdak thanked officials for enacting a county-wide ordinance. Previously, the law just applied to the Tahoe basin.
“It has to be community-wide,” he said. “We live in bear country and you’ve got to do what you can. It’s like living in snow country. You’ve got to have a shovel.”
After the meeting, Paula Bondor-Wenziger of South Lake Tahoe said she was grateful for the information and the bear-proofing tips.
She said her residence is regularly visited by “Yogi III,” a descendant of two sweets-loving black bears.
The Yogis have made their way through 10-pound bags of chocolate and mints which Bondor-Wenziger stored in a locked outside shed.
“I am just going to take some of that money I splurge with at Christmas and buy a bear-proof container,” Bondor-Wenziger said.
ON THE WEB
Nevada Department of Wildlife
BE BEAR AWARE
n Never approach or feed a bear, or any other wild animal for that matter.
n Use removable bird feeders for temporary placement.
n Keep pet food cleaned up, or indoors.
n Keep a close watch on children while they are outdoors, and teach them what to do if they encounter a bear.
n Use bear-proof garbage containers available through commercial dealers. Dumpsters with lockable metal lids work well, as do fencing enclosures made of chain link fencing or 2 x 4 framing.
n Spray or pour ammonia in and around garbage cans, and avoid placing aromatic food wastes, such as bacon grease or spoiled foods, in garbage cans.
n Wait until the morning of pick-up before placing garbage out.
n Feed pets indoors.
n Clean barbecue grills after use.
n Use electrical fencing combined with a tall, metal or wooden fence to protect orchards, fish ponds, beehives, compost piles, and livestock.
n Constant harassment with scare devices, loud noises or dogs will sometimes work.
n Don’t feed wildlife. The feeding of any wildlife, including birds, may inadvertently attract bear.
Source: Nevada Department of Wildlife