A nearly four-hour-long gathering of officials and residents this week explored ways to enhance bear management within Incline Village and the greater state of Nevada.
"Ninety-five percent of bear problems are trash-related," said Madonna Dunbar, resource conservationist for the Incline Village General Improvement District. She spoke to a crowd of nearly 40 residents at the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners' Bear Committee meeting at Sierra Nevada College. "A lot of times it's called problem bear, but it's really problem people."
The committee met with members of the public Monday night to discuss area bear management and potential solutions to perceived deficiencies in local trash laws.
Black bears often get into garbage because trash cans are improperly stored or are improperly closed or locked, Dunbar said. To force community members to be conscious of their trash disposal, IVGID has set up "the strictest ordinance around," Dunbar said, compared to current trash laws in Douglas and Washoe counties and Carson City.
Both Douglas County - excluding the towns of Minden and Gardnerville - and Carson City require residents to get bear-proof bins after receiving two violations within two years of a bear gaining access to one's trash. As for Washoe County, bear-proof bins are required after two violations within a year or less.
As the IVGID ordinance stands, solid waste must be kept away from vermin, dogs, bears and other pests. One violation can result in a fine, and the owner is then required to get a bear-resistant trash container. Fines can range from $100 to $1,000 depending on the type of offense made and the number of violations.
"Prior to 2008, a lot of these rules here were not up to the level that they're at (now)," Dunbar said. "When I first began at IVGID, the trash violation (fine) was like $10. It was extremely low. It's not that we're into punishing people, but when you have a fine and a compliance structure, you get people's attention."
In 2007, 181 trash complaints related to wildlife were made to IVGID, Dunbar reported. That figure dropped to 56 in 2010. As of Sept. 10 this year, 59 complaints have been lodged.
Nicole Lutkemuller, a student at Sierra Nevada College, suggested using students to make area residents more aware of the bear trash situation.
"We're always looking for projects, like we need service learning hours or senior projects or research projects, and you don't have to pay us," she said.