Washoe County Bear Diversion Efforts To Get $55,000

Washoe County is preparing to ante up $55,000 to educate people about this year's unusual number of bears showing up where humans live.

The effort includes a community-wide education and awareness program and installation of wildlife-proof trash enclosures, starting at Davis Creek State Park.

An ordinance imposing fines on residents who leave garbage outside without bear-proof cans could be considered later.

"We don't like to use penalties as a way to solve problems, but in this case, we need to have some level of penalties, probably, in order to deal with this issue," Assistant County Manager Dave Childs said Tuesday at a county commission meeting.

Efforts will focus on encouraging residents not to leave trash outdoors or feed bears and include the special cans at Davis Creek park.

Officials do not believe the bear population is increasing, but that a lack of food is forcing the bears to "migrate down to where they can get a free lunch," Childs said.

"We may have to kill more bears just because they already have a behavioral pattern," Childs said. "To change that pattern, we will do whatever we can in terms of diversion, rubber bullets and things like that to get them back in the woods.

Chairman Robert Larkin said as a boy in Yellowstone National Park he encountered a bear, apparently attracted by apples from motorists.

"I was starting to look like a little bit of an apple to that bear," Larkin said. "I didn't like that."