Guidelines for Living In and Visiting Bear Habitat

Black Bear Facts

  • The only species of bears in California and Nevada are Black Bears. However, they do range in color from blonde to black, with cinnamon brown being the most common color.
  • There are an estimated 25,000 to 35,000 black bears in California and 200 to 300 in Nevada.
  • Black Bears will seek to avoid confrontation with humans. If encountered, always leave them an escape route.
  • Males are much larger than females and can weigh up to 500 pounds, although the average weight is about 300 pounds.
  • Black Bears can sprint up to 35 mph and they are strong swimmers and great tree climbers.
  • Black Bears are omnivores. A typical wild bear diet consists of berries, plants, nuts, roots, honey, honeycomb, insects, larvae, carrion and small mammals.
  • As winter approaches, bears will forage for food up to 20 hours a day, storing enough fat to sustain them through hibernation. Bears often hibernate in large hollow trees 40 to 50 feet off the ground!
  • Bears that are accustomed to people can become too bold and lose their fear of humans. To avoid this behavior, do not let bears become habituated to human sources of food.


Camping With Bears

  • Never leave food, toiletries and/or anything with a scent in your tent, sleeping bag or car.
  • Keep sleeping bags, tents and sleeping areas free of food and beverage odors.
  • Store food in bear-proof canisters or bear-proof lockers if provided. The trunk of your car and coolers are not bear-proof!
  • Do not leave out food, stored drinks or diapers. The smell will attract bears.
  • Clean everything after preparing a meal.
  • Dispose of garbage properly. If a bear-proof dumpster is not available, store your garbage in bear-proof lockers often provided at campgrounds, until it can be disposed of properly.
  • When backpacking, use a bear-proof Backpacker's Cache to store your food. These really work and are available for free rental through the US Forest Service Visitor's Center at Taylor Creek and at South Lake Tahoe Forest Service office.
  • When departing an area, empty all goods and refuse from any containers or food storage lockers left behind.
  • Remember, never feed a bear!


Bear-proof Your Property

Bears are attracted to anything that is edible or that they associate with food. Take precautionsby implementing the following ideas:

  • Garbage problems can be solved with the purchase and correct use of a bear-proof garbage container. Save money by sharing one with a neighbor! For approved bear-proof containers and where to buy them, visit the Tahoe Council for Wild Bears web site.
  • Wait to put trash out until collection day.
  • Don't leave trash, groceries or animal feed in your car.
  • Keep garbage cans clean and deodorize them with bleach or unscented ammonia.
  • Harvest fruit off trees as soon as it is ripe, and promptly collect fruit that falls.
  • Do not feed wildlife.
  • Keep barbecue grills clean.
  • Feed pets inside.
  • Securely block access to sites such as crawl spaces under decks and buildings to reduce the potential of hibernation under structures.
  • Don't leave any scented products outside, even non-food items such as suntan lotion, insect repellent, soap and/or candles.
  • Keep doors and windows secure from intrusions. Scents can lure bears inside.
  • When unoccupied, empty cabins of all food and scented products or keep them in a scent free, bear-proof container.

A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear!

Once habituated to human sources of food, bears will seek them out, creating conflictswith humans. The bear's behavior will not stop voluntarily, and unless the nuisance behaviorcan be corrected, bears may be killed for various reasons including property damage or dueto collisions with vehicles. In order to avoid these deaths, the food source must be removed.


Prevention is the Key

Bears that visit human occupied areas are usually in search of food. You will be less likely tohave encounters with bears if the recommended precautions are taken, so that bears do not associate humans with a source of food. Once they do, they become habituated to humans.Relocating habituated bears relocates the problem, it does not solve it. It is illegal inCalifornia and strongly discouraged in Nevada to feed bears, and many communitieshave ordinances penalizing those who feed wild animals.


Bear Encounters

In Your Yard:  Do not run. Be aggressive and assert your dominance by standing tall and making noise that will scare the bear away. Banging pots and pans together and shouting loudly works well.

In the Woods:  This is the bear's territory, respect that and do not run.Make eye contact cut don't stare, pick up small children, make yourself appear as large as possible, stay calm and quiet, back away and enjoy the experience from a safe distance.

Anywhere:  If the bear attempts to get away, do not block the bear'sescape route! Bears will often climb a tree if frightened and usually won't come down it humansor dogs are present.

  • Never get between a mom and her cubs.
  • Slowly walk away and make a loud noise.
  • Though attacks are very rare, if you are attacked, fight back aggressively!


For more information about bears in the Lake Tahoe Basin, please contact the following resources in your area:

California Department of Fish and Game
1416 Ninth St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 984-7123

Nevada Division of Wildlife
1100 Valley Rd.
Reno, NV 89512
(775) 688-1500 General Info
(775) 688-1331 Report Incidents to Dispatch

Bear League
24 hour hotline
(530) 525-7297

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center
1485 Cherry Hills Circle
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
(530) 577-2273

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Forest Service Office
35 College Drive
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
(530) 543-2600

Tahoe Council for Wild Bears
P.O. Box 393
Homewood, CA 96141


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