Tahoe Area Campers: Be Bear Aware

The following is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev. – As a reminder, backcountry visitors should practice proper food and garbage storage and behave appropriately when hiking and backpacking in bear country. This summer, wilderness rangers report bears are successfully taking down food-hangs in Desolation Wilderness. Once bears become habituated to human food and garbage they will return and seek it out. Agencies highly recommend using bear-resistant canisters when visiting the backcountry.

Bears are attracted to anything scented or edible (such as lip balm, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, sunscreen, insect repellant, etc.) and improperly stored human or pet food and garbage are temptations bears can’t resist. Once bears gain access to food or garbage, they become less cautious of people and may exhibit bold behavior in their search for food, garbage and other attractants. Bears that have become indifferent to the presence of people may cause property damage or threaten public safety.

Backcountry visitors may encounter bear activity on any given day or location. Hikers and overnight campers should be diligent and keep canisters sealed unless in immediate use. Store all food, garbage and other attractants in canisters and place them at least 100 feet from campsites.

bear-resistant canister
Bear-resistant canisters are recommended for Tahoe Basin backcountry campers.

Prepare and cook all food away from sleeping areas and where storage canisters are placed. Do not hang canisters or tie them to trees, rocks, tents, or other objects that a bear can use to hold onto.

Bear-resistant canisters may be purchased online and at local outdoor stores. A list of certified bear-resistant products can be found at http://igbconline.org/certified-products-list/.

The following bear safety tips for hikers and backpackers should be followed at all times:

  • Store food in bear-resistant canisters while recreating in the backcountry.
  • Hike in groups and keep an eye on small children.
  • Keep dogs on leash. Off-leash dogs can provoke bears to respond defensively.
  • Watch for signs of bears, such as bear scat along trails or claw marks on trees.
  • Stay alert and make noise while on trails so bears know you are there and can avoid you.
  • Never approach bears or cubs. Always keep a safe distance and never get between a sow and her cubs.

If a bear does approach your campsite, stay calm and stand your ground. Make yourself appear larger by raising your arms above your head or if wearing a jacket, open it wide and clap your hands or make other loud noises. Do not run or act aggressively and never block a bear’s escape route. Black bear attacks are rare, but if attacked, fight back.

For more information about peacefully coexisting with bears, visit TahoeBears.orgto learn everything about living, visiting and playing responsibly in bear country. By working together, we can help Keep Tahoe Bears Wild! TahoeBears.org website is made possible through funding from California State Parks.

This collaborative agency effort includes the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Parks, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Nevada State Parks, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.