When it comes to bare necessities, handouts from humans are not one of them as far as Lake Tahoe’s — or any — wild bears are concerned.
As the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported, someone put signs up along the main highway through town that, while possibly well-intended, put the city’s bears at risk.
“There’s something every citizen of Lake Tahoe needs to know about our Black Bear population. They are suffering considerably,” the letter began.
There’s growing concern in Lake Tahoe tonight after dozens of these flyers were found hung around the area encouraging people to feed the bears. Experts say it’s dangerous to both the bears & humans. I have the story at 11 @abc7newsbayarea pic.twitter.com/rcQREMNHcb— Tim Johns (@tim_johns_) January 5, 2024
It goes on at length, saying, among many other things, the bears require a certain number of calories a day just to survive and that eating “nasty rotten disgusting things that human beings throw away in the garbage” is making them sick. They state that the “Don’t Feed the Bears” campaign was “dreamed up by people too lazy to sweep up garbage supposedly created by an animal.”
It ends by saying the solution is intentionally feeding the bears by “creating a small organic compost, food trash only bucket” and leaving it open by your trash cans, and signing it “With love and respect, Sincerely Steven.”
While the letter as a whole is wildly incorrect and dangerous to the bears and humans alike, one thing said is at least partly true: bears and other wildlife across the globe are dying from ingesting the human trash littering the planet.
🗣️ Should speed limits be lower in areas near major wildlife populations?
🗳️ Click your choice to see results and speak your mind
Endangered bears were found scavenging a dump in India, a bear euthanized in Telluride, Colorado, was found to have plastic and other garbage blocking its intestine, and marine animals have been found with stomachs full of plastic debris.
Feeding them, however, is not the solution — as it teaches them to rely on humans for food, and habituated bears often have to be euthanized. Co-existing with them, keeping them wild, and reducing our reliance on single-use plastics that further harm them is.
As wildlife expert John Griff said, there are many risks to habituating animals. Even apart from the danger a bear could pose to a human if it becomes too comfortable meandering through a residential area, an animal that gets too accustomed to relying on human sources for food can also wind up in dire straits if a person feeding it moves or goes on vacation.
A previous article by the Tribune also pointed out that many Tahoe bears are not hibernating for the winter because of access to food.
Bear advocacy groups worked quickly to take the letters down and address the misinformation and harm following this advice would do.
As reported by the Tribune, The Lake Tahoe Land Basin Management Unit of the U.S. Forest Service took to Facebook, saying, “Bears are perfectly capable of surviving on their own, and are far better off without any human hand outs. By intentionally feeding bears, people are conditioning those bears to associate humans and homes with food sources. These bears, baited by unsecured food and garbage, are being conditioned to cross the boundary of safe behavior by approaching people, houses, cars, etc. to seek out that food reward. This change bears natural behaviors and greatly increases the potential for conflict situations.”
“It’s not possible for communities in bear country to coexist with bears unless people respect boundaries with bears and all wildlife,” they furthered.
“This includes not feeding wildlife, keeping garbage and other attractants, scented items, properly secured and away from bears and wildlife, and educating yourself on best practices when living in bear country.”
Join our free newsletter for cool news and cool tips that make it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.