Wild bears have been spotted roaming the streets, raiding garbage cans, and even breaking into empty homes in South Lake Tahoe. The area south of the historic lake located on the border between California and Nevada was all but abandoned due to the Caldor Fire that burned across the states. The absence of people caused the bears to roam freely in the empty towns.
With the suspension of garbage removal services due to the fire, the bears took command of the trash situation, rummaging through garbage bins and dumpsters and spreading their contents all over the streets.
“There’s so much garbage on the street because of the bears…They are making a mess,” John Tillman, who owns South Tahoe Refuse, told news reporters. “It’s just a nightmare.”
Bears were seen breaking into gas stations and homes and spotted outside of grocery stores.
The area is used to increased bear activity in the late summer as the animals prepare for the coming fall and winter by foraging and eating. With the fires that devastated so much of their natural habitat, the bears were forced to forage elsewhere for food, leading them to search the empty streets and neighborhoods of South Lake Tahoe.
The evacuation order has since been lifted, and people are returning to their homes. Authorities have warned residents to be aware of bears who may still be lingering around.
The city of South Lake Tahoe posted the following warning on their website as people returned after the evacuation: “There is currently more bear activity in the town; Bears not used to humans, so they’re not scared of cars and more likely to walk in front of you.”
The bears are just one of the issues residents of South Lake Tahoe have to face as they return home. As the town resumes normal operations, clean up and reinstatement of vital services, such as gas, electricity, water, and waste collection are also resuming as normal. Returning residents have been told to board up any broken entrances to their homes and dispose of garbage correctly, including using bear boxes, to deter bear activity.
Thanks to brave firefighters, the town was spared from damage from the Caldor Fires, and the fire is now more than 60% contained. More evacuation orders are being lifted daily.
We at Karmagawa and Save the Reef are thankful for the brave firefighters who worked to keep people safe from the devastating Caldor fire. We wish everyone a safe return home.
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(Cover image: Oleg Kozlov/Shutterstock)