JoAnne Skelly: Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Bear scat

Bear scat

I live with a bear, and I don’t mean my husband! We have lived in west Washoe Valley for 29 years and have only had one or two bears pass through in all those years. Now, one seems to be here all the time, if his (her?) scat is any indication. I’m finding big piles of bear doo everywhere on our property: near the creek, in the driveway, under the trees and even inside our five-foot fenced yard. I thought dog doo was problematic — try doing the poop scoop and boogie with bear scat!

I haven’t seen the bear, but my neighbor caught him on a motion-sensitive camera one night. Another neighbor reports bear doo on her property, too. Unfortunately, my poor crabapple trees have been broken and battered by Yogi climbing up to strip the trees of the remaining crabapples. I guess the lack of regular apples in the apple trees this year is a blessing, otherwise our new “friend” probably would have broken many of those branches, too. I also found the bird socks shredded and the feeder knocked down from the tree.

I know people who have had to deal with bears for years, and I never really grasped the extent of the damage bears can cause to trees. I had trained those crabapples for 25 years and they had a beautiful open structure. Now there are claw marks on most of the branches that remain, and jagged ripped areas where branches collapsed under the bear’s weight. Now I understand why one friend put in motion-activated lights and horns to deter the bears in her yard. How her neighbors must love having those horns come on in the night!

Bears can be dangerous and destructive. The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) tells people it is our responsibility to remove attractants, particularly trash, to deter bears becoming human food-conditioned. If they get used to people food, even once, they often stick around and can become a public safety problem. They then might have to be killed.

NDOW says keep trash in bear-resistant containers at least 25 feet from the house. Don’t hang bird feeders; instead, scatter seed on the ground. Keep pet food indoors and other animal feed in lockable containers outside so bears don’t break into sheds, garages or barns. Remove fruit as soon as it ripens. Use electric fencing to keep bears out of gardens and orchards.

For more information, go to the NDOW website,

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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