Bear Biologists Offer Advice to Visitors on Late-Season Camping Trips in Tahoe Basin

As visitors flock to the Tahoe Basin for one last summer camping excursion, biologists have some valuable insights to share in recreating in the region with heavy bear activity.

The Lake Tahoe Basin, nestled in the heart of bear country, witnesses heightened bear activity during this period as these magnificent creatures gear up for leaner times in the approaching fall and winter. Their quest for food often leads them to human food sources and garbage, creating potential conflicts.

“Anyone coming to the Tahoe area should educate themselves on bear behavior and general bear ecology,” said Alexia Ronning, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and one of three bear biologists hired recently by CDFW to the Tahoe Basin to help prevent and mitigate human-bear conflicts. “There are a lot of bears here and they have an incredibly strong sense of smell and a strong desire for food that intensifies at different times of the year, particularly in the fall with the onset of hyperphagia.”

Ronning advises campers to adhere to campground rules and promptly report any bear incidents to camp hosts or relevant government agencies. To ensure safety and minimize bear-human interactions, she recommends carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it, along with bringing an air horn, a whistle, or noise-making tools to deter bears and alert fellow campers.

Alyson Cheney, another CDFW environmental scientist, emphasizes proper food storage as a consistent issue.

“People assume their ice chests are bear-proof, but in most cases, they are not,” she said. “If they can’t be locked or latched securely with no way to pry a gap between the lid and the cooler, they need to go into a bear box. Bring all necessary equipment to store food properly whether that’s a bear-proof canister or a bear-resistant ice chest.”

Kyle Garrett, the third member of CDFW’s Tahoe Basin bear team, highlights the necessity of following bear-safe practices at all times, whether in campgrounds, the backcountry, or neighborhoods. He underscores the importance of properly latching bear boxes and dumpsters for effective use.

“In the Basin, bears can show up in a campground, in the backcountry or even a neighborhood. All the best bear practices need to be followed at all times,” he said.

Visitors are encouraged to play a vital role in keeping bears wild by adopting these strategies and remaining vigilant, especially as bears enter the hyperphagia period.

To report bear incidents or conflicts in the Lake Tahoe Basin, use the following contact information and resources:

  • California: CDFW at (916) 358-2917 or report online through the Wildlife Incident Reporting (WIR) system at
  • Non-emergency bear collisions in California State Parks can be reported to its public dispatch at (916) 358-1300.
  • Nevada: NDOW at (775) 688-BEAR (2327).

In case of emergencies, contact the local sheriff’s department or dial 911. Your cooperation is crucial in preserving the natural habitat and minimizing bear-human conflicts in the Tahoe Basin.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

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