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Tahoe Nugget #121:

Sierra Bear Rescue
October 1, 2007

Bear activity in the Tahoe-Truckee region has been exceptional this summer with bruin-human encounters the most frequent in 20 years. By mid-September, at least 65 bears had been killed by cars. There is very little water in the high country this year so they come to the lower elevations to drink. People unintentionally bait the bears by leaving trash and garbage near their homes, which often draws hungry animals like bears, raccoons and coyotes.

Bear break-ins have become common; in some neighborhoods homeowners have suffered several invasions this summer costing thousands of dollars. The bears rip open doors or break windows to gain entry. One frustrated second-homeowner boarded up all the doors and windows to his cabin and spray-painted in bold, red letters: "We give up," and "The bears won."

Common defense tools against the rampage are deadbolts on doors, electronic barking dogs, bear-proof garbage cans, bowls filled with ammonia or Pine-Sol, even surveillance telephones that automatically dials a notification call when a bear breaks in. People are also protecting their windows and doors by spiking wooden boards with heavy gauge nails to discourage the hungry prowlers.

The Department of Fish and Game says that if a bear enters an occupied home, the resident should defend himself to the point he's comfortable doing so. One biologist said, "If there is an immediate threat to your life, you can defend yourself by any means necessary." Wild black bears have killed nearly three-dozen people across North America this century, but as far as I know, there is no evidence that a California black bear has ever killed a human. That could change as the close encounters move indoors and people start packing firepower.

The bear news has been sad this year with lots of bears destroyed and many cubs left orphaned. However, a positive event occurred a couple of weeks ago on Rainbow Bridge, located west of Donner Lake on Highway 40 near Donner Pass. On the evening of September 15, a bear was rambling along the bridge when two cars came upon it. The bear spooked and went over the side of the bridge, which towers over a granite chasm. The fall would have been sure death for poor Yogi. Luckily, our plucky bruin managed to grab hold of one of the supports and gained a risky perch.

Authorities arrived the next morning to find Yogi sound asleep. Rescuers rigged a safety net under the bear, popped him with a tranquilizer dart and he fell off the ledge and into the net. The bear was lowered gently to the ground and when he woke up he took off for the hills!

Photos courtesy of Maile Barron, mathematics instructor at Sierra College, Rocklin, California.


9-16-07 Bear rescue A Nugget #121

9-16-07 Bear rescue B Nugget #121

9-16-07 Bear rescue C Nugget #121

9-16-07 Bear rescue D Nugget #121

9-16-07 Bear rescue E Nugget #121

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