As the Tahoe bears and their cubs are fattening up in preparation for winter, they will turn to any source of food available to get what they need. This would ideally be spawning salmon at Taylor Creek, CA or in recent years scraps of human food from dumpsters.
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But this year, USFS officials are seeing an alarming trend of bears scaring people away to get their food. It appears the bears are getting too comfortable with humans.
“A new type of food condition behavior, where some bears are learning how to scare people away to get their food,” USFS biologist Stephanie Coppeto said. “So, for example, they may approach a picnic table where (people) are eating. And people, their reaction is to obviously get away, and then the bear will eat the food.”
Coppeto added that this happened at the Fall Fish Festival earlier this month. A mother and her two cubs got into the event and went through backpacks, taking over picnic tables.
“Trying to shoo the bears away, they were not easy to move away,” Coppeto said. “They don’t exhibit a lot of fear of humans. Some bears look at humans and think, ‘They have a granola bar in their backpack; they have a can of Coke with them.’”
The Taylor Creek Visitor Center now put up signs all over the park stressing that visitors do not bring food, drinks or picnics. Officials also said to keep food out of vehicles.
On the flip side, because some bears are getting used to humans, some people, in turn, think it is OK to get close and interact with the bear. Which is a big no-no. If you encounter a bear, Coppeto said to feel grateful for the natural experience. Keep your distance, don’t run away, face the bear, speak in a stern tone, clap, make eye contact and slowly back away.
Taylor Creek Visitor Center is closing Oct. 26. Although the park is open year-round, bathroom facilities and trash pickup will stop. USFS said it’s even more important to leave food, drinks and picnics at home.