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Wildlife Officials Warn Caldor Evacuees Returning To Tahoe About Potential Bear Encounters

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE (CBS13) — Officials have a wildlife warning for Tahoe evacuees returning home: Bears may have caused damage or may still be lingering in communities.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife is urging evacuees to make repairs quickly and get rid of trash.

Amid the Caldor Fire, an evacuated South Lake Tahoe was suddenly crawling with bears. Video shows them running through empty streets and even opening someone's garage door, likely on the hunt for a bite to eat.

"Two people's houses got broken into—one right by the high school. They broke the door down and trashed it," said Travis Parsons, who lives in South Lake Tahoe.

Parsons was just recently able to return home. He's hearing about bear break-ins all over the community, even close to his house.

"My neighbor across the street, they broke out his back window for a piece of a sub sandwich, for just the bread," Parsons said.

CBS13 spoke with a man who owns 150 vacation rental homes in South Lake Tahoe. During the evacuation, he said bears broke into 15 of those homes and went immediately for the refrigerators.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife is warning residents, telling them to not give the bears food or water. Some of the bears may have injuries from the wildfire, but wildlife officers still say to leave them alone. They will find resources in unburned areas.

"I'm not one to go up to bears. I don't even take pictures of them," said John Maxhimer, who lives in South Lake Tahoe.

South Lake Tahoe is working quickly to remove trash that could not be picked up during evacuations, eliminating another temptation that may draw a bear in.

"We know not to feed them. Basically, you just make yourself big and make a lot of noise and they'll run away," Maxhimer said.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife says people should only report clear cases of distress—for example, if the animal appears orphaned or cannot walk. Don't approach an injured animal, that will only stress it out more.

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