Bear Causing Damage At Tahoe South Shore

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A bear with more appetite than manners is pigging out at Lake Tahoe's south shore.

The bear - encouraged by people who leave food out for it - has been breaking into vehicles and garages to eat whatever it can find. Losses in dinners and damage are estimated to be in the thousands of dollars.

Wildlife officials say its appetite could prove fatal - and not because of high cholesterol.

"If a bear crosses that line of breaking into homes and cars and we can catch the right bear, he's a dead bear," said Carl Lackey, bear specialist for the Nevada Division of Wildlife.

Lackey conceded that's somewhat unfair, since the bear probably picked up its bad habits from humans who fed it.

"We've had several reports of a person in that area deliberately putting food out and inviting friends over to watch the bears," Lackey told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"The bears are becoming more and more habituated and conditioned to feeding on human garbage. Very few residents have taken necessary steps to prevent this from happening. Just the opposite is occurring. Instead of bear-proofing things, they are leaving garbage out, planting fruit trees and wondering why they have so many bears."

The food seems to be giving the bear plenty of energy. There have been sightings from Kingsbury Grade, near the south shore casinos, to Round Hill on the east side of the lake.

Kingsbury Grade resident Zen Williston said he has worked to bear-proof his home, so he was dumfounded Saturday when he saw cartons of soy milk strewn over his driveway. Then he noticed his garage door was ajar.

"My freezer had been opened, and food had been strewn all over the garage," he said. "I had about $500 worth of food in the freezer ... and three-quarters of it was gone."

What really baffled Williston was the ease with which the bear opened the door to his car.

"It didn't break the windows. There wasn't one scratch on the paint," he said.

"Apparently, it went in and ripped off part of the driver's door getting some chewing gum. It crawled around inside with muddy feet just looking for other stuff.

"It amazes me that it can do so much destruction and be so dexterous, intelligent and strong," he said.

Lackey said it is not illegal to feed bears in Nevada and once the animals acquire a taste for human food, there's only one way to stop them for good.

"Removing bears by relocation doesn't work," he said. "The bears almost beat the truck back to the area."