Area bears are nearing their final weeks of fattening up before heading to the hills to hibernate, and they’re looking for massive amounts of calories, often near homes. That’s a bad thing, wildlife officials say, posing a danger for bears and humans.
Local homeowners agree.
Reno Police and Nevada Department of Wildlife officials said they’ve seen an increase in calls from residents related to bears in the area. Reports of bear activity have come in from Verdi all the way south to Topaz Lake and Hawthorne.
The calls have ramped up in the fall, when wildlife officials say bears are looking to eat up to 20,000 calories a day. That’s about equal to nearly eight jars of Skippy Super Chunk peanut butter – a grocery item that shouldn’t be on the menu for bears. (Editor’s note: It’s also equal to about 7 large stuffed crust pepperoni pizzas from Little Caesars.)
“During this time, bears’ natural instincts bring them down to the valleys in search of remaining berries, insects, carrion, and any source of food to build up those fat reserves,” said NDOW Bear Biologist Heather Reich. “While human food sources should not fall into this category, unsecured attractants in neighborhoods, including garbage, fruit trees, bird feeders, and much more provide bears with an easy meal.”
Officials say 95% of bear calls are garbage related. Securing trash in bear-proof containers is the best way to deter bears, they added.
Female bears typically go to den in mid-November, but male bears can continue their final feasting into mid-December. NDOW officials warn that everyone should be aware that bears may be in the area – after traveling through irrigation ditches and natural ravines that can take them to many parts of the city – and do their part to deter them from their property.
“Bears naturally hibernate in the winter as food sources disappear,” Reich said. “It has everything to do with food availability, not the weather. When food sources are abundant in neighborhoods, then a bear has no reason to den.”
NDOW provided these tips to keep bears away from neighborhoods and in the wild where they belong:
- Secure your garbage. Washoe County Waste Management offers bear-resistant garbage cans that can be left out. Request one by calling (775) 329-8822. Or, keep your garbage cans stored in a locked shed or garage and only put it out the morning of trash pickup. Failure to secure trash from bears can result in fines.
- Remove bird feeders from dusk to dawn.
- Remove other attractants from your yard, including fruit from fruit trees, pet food, dirty barbeques and other food or scented items.
- Remove food, trash and other scented items from vehicles. Keep vehicle windows up and doors locked when not in use.
- Install electric fencing around beehives, chicken coops and livestock.
- If you see bears near your home, scare them away: From an open window or safe distance, yell loudly and/or bang pots and pans. Yelling things like “Hey bear!”, “Go bear!”, “Get out of here bear!” alerts those around you to what’s going on. You can also trigger your car alarm to try to scare them off as well. These methods can help “negatively condition” bears to humans and houses and teach them that it is not okay to enter these areas.
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