CDFW News | Secure Food, Garbage, and Other Summer Attractants: Keep Tahoe Bears Wild!

Secure Food, Garbage, and Other Summer Attractants: Keep Tahoe Bears Wild!

*** A Lake Tahoe Basin Interagency Press Release ***

Summer can be a tough time to be a bear.

The green grasses have dried up and the berries are not yet quite ripe to eat, causing the black bears to move around more in search of easy food. That means there’s a lot to think about when living, visiting, or recreating in the Lake Tahoe Basin this time of year.

Food on barbecue grills and picnic tables brings curious bears to neighborhoods and campsites to investigate, making it very important to always practice proper food storage.

Never leave food unattended. Any attractants left behind become accessible to bears and could result in a food reward, which will bring bears back for future visits and cause bears to believe that it is okay to turn to humans for food. If a bear approaches, yell at it, honk and scare the bear away before it is rewarded.

If you are unable to hunt the bear, other people can help you. On National Forest lands, a host or campground employee may be able to help move the bear and secure attractants. Likewise, on California state park properties, park rangers can often assist. If you are in a residential area, call 911 to have a trained local sheriff come to help you keep the bear away from the property.

Bears love barbecues. If you used a barbecue, the grease and bits of food left on the grill could be a tasty snack for a hungry bear. After you’ve finished cooking your own food, leave the grill on high for about 10 minutes to burn off leftover food and make the barbecue less attractive to passing bears. Be sure to clean up all food and place trash in a safe, wildlife-proof bear container or box. Never keep food or trash in your vehicle. The bears will break in.

The point is this: it is neither natural nor healthy for bears to feed on human food and waste. This can damage their claws, teeth and digestive system. Whether intentional or not, it is illegal to feed bears. Do your part to obey the law and prevent bears from accessing human food and garbage. Human-sourced food prevents bears from participating in the natural ecosystem, which depends on bears to disperse native seeds, control insects, and clean up dead animals. A healthy wild bear means a healthy and wild ecosystem.

Here are some seasonal tips for the summer:

Visitors to house rentals: If your bear box is full, take your trash home. Please don’t leave it next to the bear box. The bears will walk in and get the food reward before the trash is picked up, creating more conflict for future visitors and residents.

Companies: Always keep your dumpsters locked, even during the day when employees may access them frequently. If dumpsters are overflowing, businesses should make every effort to empty them or find another safe place to put the excess trash.

Campers: Bears will approach at any time of the day. Never leave your food or garbage outside the bear box unless you are closely watched and used. Strictly follow all campground rules regarding food storage.

Beach lovers: If you bring food to the beach, you must take care of it and the garbage must be disposed of properly. If all bear-resistant trash cans are full, take your trash with you so it’s not available to bears.

The hot summer days and cool nights in the Tahoe Basin make us all want to open our windows to let in the mountain air. However, as we let fresh air in, we let food odors escape. Black bears, with their keen sense of smell, will gravitate to open windows and doors. It is very important to make sure you close all windows when you are away from home or sleeping at night.

Bears know when humans are active or present and will take advantage of these quiet times to enter a home through a window or door to access a kitchen for easy food. Likewise, it is wise to lock your doors. Some bears know how to open doors and locking them is the only way to keep bears out of a house.

Living and recreating in the bear country of the Lake Tahoe Basin is a year-round responsibility. Please do your part to help keep Tahoe bears wild and healthy.

Here are some other bear best practices throughout the year:

  • Never feed wildlife. Feeding wild animals often brings animals into conflict with humans and draws wild animals into human homes and neighborhoods where they may be struck by vehicles and encounter other human hazards.
  • Store all trash in bear-resistant bins and close them properly, preferably bear boxes. Ask local waste disposal companies about new incentives and payment programs for bear boxes. In California, visit South Tahoe Refuse & Recycling Services for information and resources. In Nevada, residents should consult the Living with Bears resources of the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW).
  • Never leave groceries, pet food, trash, or anything smelly in vehicles, campsites, or tents.
  • Always be sure to lock vehicles and close windows. Understand that eating — even drinking coffee — in your car often leaves lingering odors that attract bears.
  • Keep barbecue grills clean and stored in a garage or shed when not in use.
  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked when the house is unoccupied.
  • Vegetable gardens, compost piles, fruit trees and chickens can attract bears. Use electric fencing where permitted to keep bears out. Avoid hanging bird feeders.
  • When camping, always store food (including pet food), beverages, toiletries, coolers, cleaned grills, cleaned dishes, cleaning supplies, and all other scented items in the Bear-resistant containers (storage lockers/bear boxes) provided at campsites. Bear-proof coolers that are equipped with padlock devices must always be locked to meet bear-resistant requirements.
  • Always place trash in bear-resistant dumpsters at campgrounds or bear-resistant containers at campsites (storage lockers/bear boxes), and close and lock after each use.
  • Store food in bear-resistant hard-sided storage boxes while recreating in the backcountry.
  • Give wildlife space. Enjoy wildlife from a distance, especially when they have young with them.

To report human-bear conflicts in California, contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) at (916) 358-2917 or report online using CDFW’s Wildlife Incident Reporting (WIR) system at Non-emergency wildlife interactions on California State Parks property can be reported to the public dispatcher at (916) 358-1300. To report human-bear conflicts in Nevada, contact NDOW at (775) 686-BEAR (2327). If the problem is a direct threat or an emergency, call 911 to seek immediate assistance from local law enforcement.

For more information on peaceful coexistence with bears, visit

Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858

Courtesy of Nevada Department of Wildlife.

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