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Trap, Tag, Haze: New Efforts To Get Bears To Behave In Tahoe Area

TAHOE (CBS13) - Tahoe is a roaring tourist attraction year-round, but when the snow melts, that's when experts say black bears pose a threat – and it's getting worse every year.

"It's a real problem every summer. It was heightened last year during COVID with so many people looking to get out of the city," said Peter Tira, a spokesperson with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. "We are seeing bears become more bold, jumping on picnic tables, bluff charging people to scare them off to get the food. Then they are getting rewarded with the food and it reinforces that kind of behavior."

To change that, Tira said they are teaming up with California State Parks and the U.S. Forest Service to trap, tag, and haze bears with loud noises and bean bags. Their efforts are intended to not only track the bears but also give them a reason not to come back to campgrounds and heavily populated areas around the Tahoe National Forest.

"We are flipping the tables. We are trapping these bears, giving it a very negative experience," Tira explained.

By tagging each bear, the goal is to build a genetic database to track the bears' locations, behaviors and even their relatives.

"Are these bears learning from this hazing? Are they staying away? Are they not? Through genetic study, are these bears genetically teaching their young these problem behaviors?" Tira said.

Tira explained that with an influx of visitors since the pandemic, there are not only more bears but more people, which increases the risk of human-bear interactions.

"You cannot let your guard down. You have to have a plan for your food, for your storage, any kind of scented items. Even eating in your car on the way to Tahoe leaves a food odor," he said. "We want everyone to enjoy their times outdoors, we want the bears to be wild and we want to minimize conflict."

Trapping tactics happen twice a year during the spring and fall. Their efforts have trapped 18 bears since the project launched in 2019. This May, the group is partnering with the U.S. Forest Service to expand its coverage area. According to Tira, it could be years until their database is complete.

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