Tahoe residents act as bear vigilantes
INCLINE VILLAGE – Awaking to find a 500-pound black bear trapped outside a Tahoe City house several weeks ago, a group of neighbors made a decision: this bear wouldn’t be killed in their neighborhood, not if they could help it.
The creature had reportedly entered the home at 383 Pioneer Way several times through a faulty door that didn’t lock. Instead of fixing the door, the renter got a permit to trap the bear from the California Department of Fish and Game.
After confirming that a trapped bear is a dead bear in California – state policy prohibits relocations – the Tahoe City locals used a pair of bolt cutters to set the bear free in what is becoming an increasingly common act of vigilante intervention.
“I thought it was a terrible way to end a bear’s life,” said one neighbor who declined to give his name because springing the trap was technically illegal. “I don’t think the bears should pay the price for people’s stupidity.”
Community opposition to trapping and killing bears that have broken into homes, usually lured by improperly stored garbage or open doors, seems to be growing, according to Ann Bryant, executive director of the BEAR League.
“I think it’s happening more now because people are understanding that they don’t relocate them… they kill them,” she said. “Once a neighborhood catches on and realizes someone is going to kill a bear, they’ll take action on their own.”
The resident involved in springing the Tahoe City trap said the bear in question used to walk across his driveway every day at 5 p.m. and he didn’t want the animal killed.
The renter who ordered the trap set did not return phone calls for this article.
When a Tahoe Pines resident got a permit last week to trap a bear that had attempted to break into his home, an outraged neighbor posted wooden signs on Highway 89 pointing toward the trap.
“Bear Trap,” the spraypainted signs proclaimed with a large arrow.
“They did it so the people who got the permit would have everyone know they killed bears,” said Bryant, who said she received calls from the resident who posted the signs. He could not be reached for comment.
The trap was set in Tahoe Pines for two nights, and each night someone in the neighborhood sprung it shut so no bear would walk in to find the mackerel bait, according to Bryant.
By the end of the week, the trap had been removed, she said.
“That was one place where the neighborhood rallied,” said Bryant of the local opposition to a trap in Lake Forest.
She stressed that while she doesn’t advocate people break the law, she thinks “it’s cool that people are standing up for the bears.”