Bear Cubs Emerge in Tahoe: Here Are Some Guidelines for Safe Encounters

As temperatures rise, bear cubs and yearling bears are emerging from their winter dens in the Tahoe region. The Tahoe Interagency Bear Team (TIBT) urges the public to follow specific guidelines when encountering these young bears this spring.

Newborn cubs, born around February, stay close to their mothers to learn survival skills. Yearlings, now a little over a year old, are beginning to separate from their mothers. It’s crucial to give these mother bears and their cubs plenty of space, especially if you see a cub alone or up a tree. The mother is likely nearby.

Wildlife agencies often receive calls from people mistaking independent yearlings for orphaned cubs. A helpful tip: if the bear is the size of a cat (10-15 pounds), it’s a young cub, and the mother is likely close. If the bear is between 50 to 150 pounds, it’s a yearling and does not need human intervention.

There has been an increase in reports of undersized, malnourished young bears showing unusual behaviors. These bears may be suffering from encephalitis, a brain inflammation causing symptoms like head tilts or tremors. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) have been investigating this condition since 2014, partnering with researchers to find its causes.

If you encounter a bear cub that appears orphaned or shows signs of illness, contact CDFW or NDOW. Do not attempt to feed or move the bear yourself, as it can harm the bear’s chances of remaining wild.

It’s important not to teach young bears to be comfortable around humans. If a bear gets too close, make noise to scare it away. Taking photos or videos can unintentionally encourage bears to approach humans, leading to dangerous habituation.

Bears learn from their experiences. Negative encounters with humans can teach them to avoid people, reducing the risk of unwanted activities like breaking into cars or houses. Remember, it is illegal to feed bears or allow them access to human food or garbage.

For more information on bear encounters, visit the BearWise web page. To report human-bear conflicts or bear health concerns, contact the appropriate wildlife authorities:

  • In California, contact CDFW at 916-358-2917 or report online.
  • Non-emergency interactions in California State Parks can be reported at 916-358-1300.
  • In Nevada, contact NDOW at 775-688-BEAR (2327).
  • For immediate threats, call the local sheriff’s department or 911.

Visit and for more information on living in and visiting bear country. Help keep Tahoe bears wild!

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