A record number of bears have been wandering into the sierra front lately. The animals keep getting more courageous...and closer to homes.
They have now been spotted in the Virginia City Highlands, Garnderville and the Galena Forest...so many that Department of Wildlife dispatchers can hardly keep up.
Lynn Lawson responds to dozens of bear calls everyday.
She says the dispatch center could probably use another set of hands to field the record number of bear calls.
"It has been the busiest season since I came to work here. It's crazy. Just bear calls, at least 20 a day," said Lawson.
We headed up to the Virginia Highlands and the only bear we spotted was Smokey...but neighbors say they've seen bears all over their property. Some say they've even come across giant paw prints, right in their front yards.
"It was really big and it looked like it had a heel, which made us think it wasn't a dog or a mountain lion or anything," said Nancy Kilian.
Bea Franklin says her neighborhood isn't normally bear country, but lately, tipped trash cans made her think twice about what could be lurking in her yard.
"It was scattered clear across the yard into my corals. I figured it was dogs, but dogs couldn't do that kind of damage," she said.
Wildlife officials are calling the bear spottings a "people problem," since garbage cans seem to be the main source of attraction for hungry bears.
"We didn't even know we had bears until a couple of weeks ago when people started seeing them," said Kilian.
"If you keep your trash can locked up, you won't have a problem with dogs or bears. It's that simple," said Virginia Highlands resident Buddy Morton.
Biologists say it really is that simple. If bears can't find anything to eat in your trash can, they'll simply wander back into the forest where they came from.
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