Not all Bears Hibernate During the Winter | Recent Black Bear Sightings in the Lake Tahoe Area

Steven Agar |
black bear, bear, tahoe, california, snow, sierra nevada
Black bear in the Sierra Nevada snow. Credit: Getty Images

The recent storms brought a welcome reminder that it is still winter, although it appears somebody forgot to tell the bear population around Incline Village, reports the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

Despite the misconception by some that all black bears hibernate in the winter, they can occasionally be seen during the cold season in and around Lake Tahoe.

“We’ve had a certain number of bears active during the winter in the last few years,” said California Fish and Wildlife Biologist Jason Holley. “If I had to guess I’d say 10 to 15 percent are active during the winter.”

For black bears throughout California, it’s not at all uncommon to have some level of activity in the winter.

It’s typical for bears to wake up, look around for food and then go back to bed during hibernation, but issues can arise when they stay awake and supplement the lack of natural food sources during the winter with human garbage.

“In Tahoe, there’s a lack of natural food available during the winter, but there are so many people around,” Holley said.

Garbage and other food sources from humans can provide a reliable enough food source for some Tahoe-area bears to stay up all winter.

“If you’re successful in providing significant food to an animal, they’ll continue trying to seek that out,” Holley said. “We call that being food habituated … they start to lose some of their fears of people and that can end really bad for the bear.”

It’s against the law to feed wildlife, including bears, deer, squirrels or any other wild animal, in both California and Nevada. Fines can be as high as $500 in Nevada, and up to $1,000 with the possibility of jail time in California.

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