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Is the black bear population booming in the Northern California foothills?

How big is California's black bear population?
How big is California's black bear population? 02:17

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — With multiple human and bear conflicts reported in the Northern California Sierra Foothills recently, you may be wondering if there has been a boom in the black bear population in the state.

"We believe we have a stable, if not growing black bear population," said Peter Tira, spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

Tira said the CDFW recently released a draft of the Black Bear Conservation Plan. A part of that plan is to update how they track the black bear population.

"It's 2024. We have new science, new technology, new data sources, and we want to incorporate all of that into our bear population modeling," Tira said.

According to the CDFW website, there are anywhere between 50,000 to 81,000 black bears in California.

Ann Bryant, director of the Bear League, said it is currently hard to tell if the population is currently booming or stable, and numbers given now are really just guesswork.

"We need a good study. We need to know how many bears are in California, how many are in each section, each region," Bryant said.

Dennis Owen has lived in South Lake Tahoe for more than 30 years. He said he doesn't think there have been more bears per se, but it seems to be more at the top of people's minds.

"It seems like it goes in spurts. I think there's more attention brought to it right now. As long as I've been here, there's been bears," Owen said.

Bryant said she thinks more people are moving and coming to Lake Tahoe, and they're attracting bears with them because they are bringing more food sources like garbage cans and bird feeders.

She also said people may be unintentionally reporting the same bear to the CDFW, but it may be documented as separate bears.

"The bears that used to live out in the backwoods that never saw people, people never saw them. They weren't really counted as bear population. They're now coming into areas people moved into," Bryant said.

Tira said the public comment period ended for the draft Black Bear Conservation plan last week, but the CDFW hopes to have more information on its next steps soon.

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