DNA Evidence Prompts Revised Response to Tahoe Keys Bear Incidents
Incidents with black bears in the Tahoe Keys area of South Lake Tahoe are getting national and international attention. Tahoe is natural bear habitat, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) takes each of these periodic incidents seriously.
CDFW is enlisting the community’s support and cooperation to conduct a thorough effort to keep bears away from people and homes and— when needed— to trap, tag and work to relocate habituated bears. All of these efforts are focused on keeping residents safe, and enabling safe and healthy conditions for these bears.
While recent incidents of bears invading homes were originally thought to be a single bear, DNA evidence collected from the most recent incident as well as prior incidents over the past several months prove that at least three bears were responsible for breaking into numerous residences. The most recent incident was attributed to a large black bear (the same bear the public is calling “Hank”) likely based on visual observation. Considering new evidence suggesting multiple bears are responsible for recent incidents, CDFW will work in coming weeks and months to trap bears in the South Lake Tahoe area, tag them, collect evidence for genetic analysis, and then release them into suitable habitat. During this effort, CDFW will gather information and learn from scientific analysis to help inform and refine our bear management in the Lake Tahoe Basin. CDFW is not going to euthanize any bears that are trapped during this effort.
Identifying bears simply by their visible, physical characteristics can lead to misidentifying bears and therefore confusing management efforts. The genetic information gleaned from our effort in the South Lake Tahoe area will assist CDFW by expanding its database of bear genetics and hopefully preventing future misidentification of bears.
For this effort to be successful, CDFW will need ample community support. First, CDFW requests the Tahoe Keys and surrounding communities to collaborate on the placement of traps to protect both residents and the bears. CDFW must have approval to place traps on private property and will need that access for this effort to work. Additionally, for traps to work, they must be left alone and not vandalized or harmed in any way.
It is critical that Tahoe Keys residents and everyone who lives or recreates in the Lake Tahoe Basin carefully store food and trash. Increasingly, CDFW is involved in bear/human conflicts that could have been avoided by people taking a few simple actions. Bears are primarily scent-driven when seeking food. Improperly stored human food and trash are likely attracting bears into this neighborhood. We all need to take all precautions to store food and trash properly to protect ourselves, our neighbors and local bears. Additional information and resources are available at CDFW’s Keep Me Wild: Black Bear web page.
CDFW has been reaching out to local governments and homeowners’ associations to educate residents and visitors of Lake Tahoe about “bear-proofing” homes, including installation of bear-proof garbage receptacles. CDFW will continue this important outreach and is exploring options to ensure that homes in the Lake Tahoe Basin are equipped with these receptacles.
CDFW’s new bear policy highlights the importance of these actions, and establishes a clear process to address each unique situation with bear/human conflict as it arises. It takes an adaptive management approach that relies on community partnerships.
By working together, these efforts to protect residents and bears can be successful. We appreciate everyone’s engagement as we work through this situation in a thoughtful, science-based, transparent manner.