I was watching Animal Planet’s Blond vs Bear episode “Breaking Point” where they reported that there are over 600 Black Bears in the Lake Tahoe area. As a result, there are about 100 calls a day to the Bear League. Some of these are called emergencies because a bear has interacted with people in a way that is dangerous for the people, bear, or both.
The Bear League tries to protect these Black Bears by trying to scare them away and back into the forest. In this episode, they use knowledge of Black Bear behavior, noise, rocks, paintball guns, and non-lethal shotgun rubber bullets to scare the bears away.
The problem is if the bear didn’t learn to stay away from the experience, it will probably return. Black Bears sometimes have to be repelled a number of times before they will be trained to stay away. If they become a nuisance, they have a good chance of being trapped and destroyed.
Other than the TV show, I read about a multiple-year study in the Lake Tahoe area. Biologists found that after 1,000 encounters with 150 bears that a number of bears will return after being hit with rubber bullets or pepper spray.
Black Bears struck with rubber shotgun slugs would run away, but 90 percent of them would return within an hour.
Black Bears hit with Bear Pepper Spray Repellent, would also run away, but only 82 percent would return within an hour.
The above numbers show that Black Bear pepper spray repellent works better in training the bears to stay away. Be sure to buy a couple of bear spray cans and have them with you while renting cabins, or camping in bear country.
The best thing to do to reduce Black Bear encounters is to learn bear behavior before you rent or camp in bear country. Too often, tourists rent houses and cabins, or camp in the Tahoe area without any knowledge of how to live in Black Bear Country. They leave food out in the open, doors and windows standing open, and garbage out where the scent can be picked up by bears.
Some tips you can follow:
Keep food locked in bear-proof containers while camping, and keep garbage locked in bear-proof trash containers. This is a good start to keeping bears away. If they come to your area and do not find food, they will travel on to another area.
If renting a cabin or home, keep windows and doors closed, especially while cooking. Bears can easily rip screens or hook doors with their claws to get to the food.
If a Black Bear does get into your home, then is the time to try to give it escape routes by opening doors, if it is safe to do so. If a Black Bear feels pinned in it can be a dangerous situation. If you can get out without having to go toward the bear, do so. If you can’t get out make a loud noise, but again make sure the bear has a way to get out in a direction away from you and never get between a bear and its cub.
Black Bear attacks in the Lake Tahoe are rare. If you use Bear Spray in self-defense of a bear, keep in mind that if used indoors, or you are downwind, it can leave a small residue in the air. You may experience a little burn sensation in your eyes and nose. The irritant should dissipate from the air in about 15 minutes. If you feel the need, you can flush your face with water, but do not use creams that could cause the irritant to stick to your face. Instead, we have Mace Takedown OC Relief Decontamination spray here.
The older Black Bear cub in the above photo was thought to have lost its mother and was in camp daily during a week-long camping trip. We don’t know his/her fate, but camp hosts feared the bear had chosen people as a new family. That means that as the bear grows up, that nuisance danger for the bear might happen. Please don’t feed bears.
To learn more Lake Tahoe Black Bear Facts see our posts Black Bear Facts and Purchase Black Bear Pepper Spray for Camping and Hiking