‘Drought bears’ invade Lake Tahoe area

RENO, Nev. — Long accustomed to dealing with bad news “garbage” bears that become hooked on improperly stored trash at homes and businesses around Lake Tahoe, Nevada, wildlife officials say they’re increasingly responding to a new kind of troublemaker they’ve started calling “drought” bears.

Experts have been predicting for months the lingering drought will lead to significantly more bear problems throughout the Sierra Nevada this summer. Three consecutive years of abnormally dry conditions have reduced most mountain creeks to a trickle and eliminated many natural food sources, forcing bears to greatly expand their search for food into urban neighborhoods, said Carl Lackey, chief wildlife biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

On Friday, wildlife officials captured their seventh problem bear in the last 10 days at Tahoe. An eighth was hit and killed by a car last week.

“We’re calling a lot of these ‘drought’ bears,” said Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy. “These are bears that want to be wild, they are doing their best to be wild and trying to stay up in the hills, but they just don’t have any food.”

Many of the bears can be relocated and released to the wild, including a 3-year-old female trapped on Tahoe’s east shore near Glenbrook early Friday.

But another bear had to be killed Wednesday because it was trying to break into homes and cars, and even wandered onto a busy private beach in a gated community before wardens shot it with a tranquilizer dart and later euthanized it.

The beach bear, a 3-year-old male, “was very bold in its behavior and not showing any fear of humans at all,” Healy said.

“It was approaching people on an occupied beach and actually opened a backpack and took food,” he said. “He had become a dangerous bear because of the lure of human trash.”

Healy said it’s a perfect example of how bears that typically don’t cause any trouble in the wild will resort to raiding garbage cans when extended drought provides no alternative.

“We are doing all we can to give them a break. Our goal is to keep them alive and wild,” he said.

Some critics argue the state is too quick to resort to euthanizing bears.

“NDOW is putting down way too many bears,” said Ann Bryant, founder of the nonprofit organization The Bear League. “We don’t agree killing is the answer. It takes away the respect for bears and that is what people need to live with them.”

More in Local News

State: Secret deal endangers Marysville Strawberry Festival

The “bizarre” agreement promises a former leader up to $175,000 if the group fails to meet his demands.

Former jail guards sentenced in dehydration death of inmate

During a mental health crisis in 2015, Keaton Farris, 25, wasted away in the Island County Jail.

County Council grills Sound Transit CEO about long timeline

West Seattle and Ballard light-rail extensions will be completed before the main spine to Everett.

‘We don’t know why he left’: Teen has been missing for 2 years

Interest in the case of Tyler Christensen, of the Edmonds area, has recently surged on the internet.

Talks to begin on emergency radio system contract

Motorola Solutions Inc. has been chosen to build a replacement for the current 911 radio system.

Mountlake Terrace woman in coma after random, vicious attack

The suspect allegedly confessed, saying he had no explanation for his actions.

Traffic circles going in on Second Street in Marysville

The work follows complaints from residents about people driving too fast down the street.

ECEAP expanding but not quick enough for program’s demand

The 1,000 spots opening for next school year are less than half of what was sought.

County planners seek denial of Woodway-area luxury condos

Concerns remained over the Point Wells development’s design and traffic plans.

Most Read