Bear troubles divide Tahoe community

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Bear troubles divide Tahoe community

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A bear crosses a street near a local Tahoe eatery. Photo courtesy of Steamers Bar & Grill.

Tensions are running high on Tahoe's North Shore as bear activity increases and the local community remains divided on how to handle the problem.

On Tuesday, state wildlife officials said they had to euthanize a bear that repeatedly attempted to break into an Incline Village home. The state has caught 14 bears close to residential areas in October. Most were released back into the wild.

Wednesday night, Incline Village Trustees will vote on a broad ordinance that could mean mandatory bear-proof bins for all residents. Bill Devine is with the Washoe County Sheriff's Office and also a trustee. Recently, his home in Incline was invaded by the same bear three times in one night.

"Finally the dog settles down, go back to bed. An hour later about 3:30 in the morning, same thing again, go upstairs now. At our kitchen window I am looking at a bear who's got the screen in his snout and trying to rip the rest out of the frame. I am on the other side of the window pretty much yelling, screaming, 'Go away.' Banging, whatever."

Following the incident, Devine asked state wildlife officials to set up a trap in his driveway. He says in the following day dozens of people, many claiming affiliation with the advocacy group the Bear League, waited by the trap in an attempt to ward off the bear. Devine says many of these advocates are not local, and the bear league has so intimidated the community that some Incline residents are afraid to even report bear break ins.

"They tell you they are afraid of what the bear people are going to say about them."

But Ann Bryant, who's executive director of the Bear League, says the group always remains civil, and she can't control people who are not affiliated with her organization coming to protest a trap. Bryant says Devine initially left his window unlocked and then refused their help.

"So when he did not say 'Hey you guys this happened to me what can you offer for solving this? I am going to call NDOW (Nevada Department of Wildlife) too, but what do you guys think?' He didn't, he just went right directly to NDOW and wanted to kill a bear."

Bryant says members of the Bear League are well trained and that they don't try to intimidate people, especially when they reach out for help. She says the real problem is poor management of trash by residents. While she'd rather not have the local government step in to regulate the problem, at this point the only solution may be mandatory bear bins.