When it comes to potential conflicts with bears, the responsibility is ours A Humane World

With a warming climate, bears come out of hibernation early (or don’t hibernate at all), at times when their typical foods may not be available, possibly causing them to forage more and more. more human food. Silviu Matei

The black bear affectionately known as Hank the Tank, who authorities once thought responsible for 28 home invasions and 152 reports of confrontational behavior in South Lake Tahoe, will be spared. DNA analysis of the scenes showed at least two other bears broke into some of the homes, and California wildlife officials will not kill Hank or place him in a sanctuary. Instead, they’ll step up hazing and mitigation efforts designed to keep Hank and the other bears out of people’s yards and homes, and most importantly, out of harm’s way.

That’s good, because the Lake Tahoe region, straddling Northern California and Nevada, is bear country and bears deserve the chance to live safely and thrive here. .

Many journalists have treated Hank’s story as a fantasy, the story of an anti-hero, a maverick kicking human society with his big paws and breaking our rules when so many of us support him. But the best of the tracks I’ve seen exposes what’s at stake for Hank and so many others like him. If there is any hope for bears living in close proximity to humans, it rests on the strongest possible commitment from residents and communities to increased bear awareness, with all that this entails about bear practices and practices. appropriate behaviors.

In this regard, Hank and the other bears are lucky. California and Nevada communities in the Tahoe area have strong mitigation programs, and Tahoe area officials seem determined to put additional measures in place. They deserve some credit: in many communities, Hank and the other bears would already be dead.

The real challenge is not with the agencies or municipalities involved, but with individual residents, homeowners associations, and the thousands of temporary tenants and visitors less familiar with the need for proper storage and disposal of food and food waste. For example, garages where many residents store trash and store food in freezers and refrigerators are an easy target for bears, with their keen sense of smell and great physical strength.

Once conditioned to human-sourced food, bears lose their natural caution and fear around people and focus on food. Either way, Hank is a seriously food-conditioned bear, and the particular community he’s chosen to frequent is a hot spot for human-bear interactions, not least because the homeowners association resisted certain mitigation measures for aesthetic reasons.

Now Tahoe authorities have renewed their pressure on the Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association to drop its opposition to the mandatory installation of bear boxes and Kodiak cans, bear-proof containers that residents can deploy like normal trash cans to be picked up by automated hydraulic trucks. There are thousands of bear boxes at Tahoe-area properties, and using them has made a difference.

There is another reason why people will need to be more vigilant in the future regarding bear attractants in food storage and waste disposal areas. Climate change threatens to exacerbate the problems so evident in the Tahoe region. With a warming climate, bears come out of hibernation early (or don’t hibernate at all), at times when their typical foods may not be available. This can cause them to seek out more and more human food.

At the Humane Society, we are champions of compassionate coexistence and we are well aware that living in harmony with wildlife is not just a challenge in bear country. In every community – urban, suburban and rural – the potential for human-wildlife conflict exists, and the search for human solutions is the foundation of our Wild Neighbors program. To an ever-increasing degree, animals are adapting to the built environment, and because our homes and buildings are not designed to keep them out, they can easily get in and get into trouble. The program trains and educates community leaders and animal welfare agencies across the country as part of our efforts to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and transform attitudes and approaches through respectful planning, design and management. animals.

There are many other examples of our commitment to reducing human-wildlife conflict in the United States and abroad, but the story of Hank and the other bears in Tahoe speaks directly to the kind of world we are working to create – one in which we humans accept full responsibility to live in peace with wildlife and take all possible measures to ensure the safety and well-being of all.

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Fauna/Marine Mammals


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Jennifer R. Strohm