California/Nevada Wildlife Agencies Sign Agreement Concerning Black Bear Management Practices
Bear problems in the Tahoe Basin reached their highest level ever in 2007. Hoping to ward off a repeat year, state wildlife officials in California and Nevada have entered into a Memorandum of Agreement to share information, personnel, equipment and supplies in a cooperative black bear management program.
“This MOA is an important symbol of our two agencies coming together to tackle some unfortunate bear/human interactions in the Tahoe Basin,” said Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Director Donald Koch, who prior to his appointment once headed up DFG’s bear management program.
“The citizens of Nevada and California want their states cooperating to make sure that the people living and visiting the Tahoe Basin leave as light a footprint as possible,” said Ken Mayer, Director of Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW). “The “Keep Me Wild” campaign teaches people to respect the natural wildlife beauty that is Lake Tahoe, including bears.”
NDOW and DFG are the Nevada and California state agencies with the jurisdictional authority and legal responsibility to protect, preserve and enhance native wildlife species and their habitats. Both agencies also possess the jurisdictional authority and legal responsibility to manage conflicts between the public and wildlife. Both states border the Tahoe Basin, and both implement similar management actions to resolve black bear conflicts with the public. The agencies will agree to:
- Share databases, including those concerning black bear nuisance and property damage incidents, as well as locations, telemetry and urban and wild land bear distribution population characteristics.
- Share public information, including press releases and other communications products, such as the DFG-produced “Keep Me Wild Campaign,” found at www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/ or www.ndow.org/wild/kmw/
- Cooperate on discussions with local governments to foster adoption and implementation of coordinated bear management policies.
- Direct field personnel to assist each other in the resolution of nuisance bear concerns and to share material resources under appropriate circumstances.
- Schedule joint public meetings to assure that nuisance and property damage black bear concerns are addressed in a consistent manner.
With the start of the summer tourist season here, DFG and NDOW remind anglers, campers and hikers enjoying their state’s back country to follow simple precautions to limit bear encounters. A key element to safe recreating and camping in bear country is limiting food odors that attract bears.
“Problems begin when bears learn to associate an easy food supply with humans and developed areas,” said Doug Updike, DFG statewide bear program coordinator. “Once this happens, bears become habituated or conditioned to go after human food because it’s easy. If people don’t change their ways, the bear won’t either.” “One of the biggest challenges we face is teaching people to keep their garbage away from bears,” said Carl Lackey, NDOW’s bear program coordinator. “The more people who understand that it is our responibility to keep the bears wild, the better off bears and humans will be.”
California’s bear population is growing and is currently estimated to be between 25,000 and 35,000. Nevada has an estimated 350 black bears, mostly concentrated in the Tahoe Basin area. Bears are located throughout most of California where suitable habitat exists. Bear encounters are not isolated to wilderness settings. Both California and Nevada will be stepping up its efforts related to bear management in the Tahoe Basin this year, emphasizing preventative measures to keep bears from becoming a problem.
Food is often a problem in the majority of public safety incidents involving bears. Access to human food from garbage overflowing a campground or residential dumpster to candy bars and sandwiches hidden in a tent are highly attractive to bears. Many people do not realize feeding wildlife provides false food sources, habituates animals to humans and can change animal behavior from foraging for food to trying to take it away from humans.
The “Keep Me Wild” campaign, now used by both states, was developed as a public educational campaign in 2003 to help address the increasing number of conflicts between black bears (as well as deer, mountain lions and coyotes) and people. The campaign provides important tips for living and recreating safely near bear habitat and advice on what to do if you encounter one of these wild animals.
Bear Country Precautions
Keep a close watch on children and teach them what to do if they encounter a bear.
- While hiking, make noise to avoid a surprise encounter with a bear.
- Never keep food in your tent.
- Store food and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle.
- Keep a clean camp by cleaning up and storing food and garbage immediately after meals.
- Use bear-proof garbage cans whenever possible or store your garbage in a secure location with your food.
- Don’t bury or burn excess food; bears will still be attracted to the residual smell.
- Garbage should be packed out of camp if no trash receptacles are available.
- Never approach a bear or pick up a bear cub.
- If you encounter a bear, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to appear as large as possible.
- If attacked, fight back.
- If a bear attacks a person, immediately call 911.
If a bear behaves aggressively, contact the DFG 24-hour dispatch center at (916) 445-0045. Threats to public safety will be assessed and appropriate action will be taken.