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Record number of bears evicted from Tahoe homes, buildings this winter: "The problem is us, not them"

Tahoe sees record number of bears evicted before spring
Tahoe sees record number of bears evicted before spring 02:54

TAHOE CITY — A record number of bears in Tahoe have been evicted from homes, buildings and even churches this winter.

Ann Bryant, the executive director of the BEAR League, said her organization has evicted more than 100 bears this winter. Some days, they run out up to eight bears a day from people's property.

The problem is not that there are more bears, but more people.

Bryant chased a bear off that was hiding under King Lutheran Church in Tahoe City at the end of January. Pastor Edward Hilton said a bear hid under the church last winter. Over the summer, they secured the crawl space the animal got in through.

This winter, one bear on a mission for warmth found another way in underneath the back deck. It was not until the chapel was having trouble heating up that Hilton knew something was off. So he called in a contractor.

"While he was underneath, the contractor came face to face with a hibernating bear and immediately ran out," Hilton said.

That bear spent about a month of his hibernation hogging up the heat under the back deck.

"It is just the bears doing what they need to just compensate for us taking over their forest," Bryant said.

So why are bears burrowing near humans and not in their habitat? Bryant said it is because people invite bears in by leaving crawl spaces open and food out. The solution is securing your space.

"The problem is more and more tourism and people coming up to vacation and forgetting to bring their brains with them," Bryant said.

Most evictions happen at vacation homes and most bears find another home or building to hide under.

"We feel like criminals running the bears out," Bryant said.

Bryant does not expect the disrupted sleep will impact bear behavior this spring as they wake up from hibernation. The first thing they will be looking for is water and then food, so that is why now is the time to make sure your property is fully secured.

Bryant said the bears are not going anywhere as long as people keep unintentionally inviting them in.

"Little openings in the foundation of homes, and if they are not secured, the bears find them and it's like there is a 'no vacancy' sign," Bryant said. "The problem is us, not them."

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