SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KTXL) — As the normally busy streets of South Lake Tahoe sat empty during the Caldor Fire evacuations, a wave of visitors of a different kind arrived into the city.
“Bear activity has increased due to the evacuations and what we’ve seen is the fire has pushed the wildlife into our city and that is represented in the number of bear calls we had breaking into residences,” explained South Lake Tahoe Police Department Operations Lt. Travis Cabral.
While the tourist destination closed down for nearly a week, police responded to over 70 calls of bear break-ins.
“Right now, they are a little more brazen so we’re trying, on the law enforcement side, to mitigate that a little bit before the bulk of our population comes back,” Cabral said.
Resident Chris Stoner posted a series of videos captured by his Ring camera showing two young bears wandering onto his property.
One of the bears walks over to a cooler filled with water and decides to take a little dip.
“So glad we can return home soon … We need to change the water after today!” Stoner wrote.
And apparently, the mother bear was not far off. Stoner posted a follow-up video showing a full-grown bear at the base of a nearby tree.
Videos showing bears on porches looking for food aren’t abnormal for a city nestled between thousands of acres of wildland.
Images of bears rifling through trash cans or strolling the sidewalks became more frequent while the city’s 22,000 residents weren’t home to shoo them away
“We do have a number of what I call urbanized black bear that live within the city limits of South Lake Tahoe, and they’re pretty comfortable being around us to begin with, and you add the fact that no people are around, they really got comfortable,” explained Tahoe bear expert Toogee Sielsch.
Sielsch told FOX40 he expects the increased bear activity to curtail as the area continues to repopulate.
“They’ll notice all the traffic moving about and will blend back in again,” Sielsch said.
He worries about the bear population forced out of their habitat by wildfires and how they will learn to make a new home not far from human homes.
“Our urbanized population is pretty comfortable moving in and around us and all the traffic, but their wildland cousins don’t really have that knowledge. So, it might be more of a challenge for them,” Sielsch said.
For those who happen to spot bears in their neighborhood, experts advise people to stay alert and leave plenty of room between themselves and the animals.
“The only way he knows out is the way he went in, so it’s always good to not block that space. Don’t approach it and it will probably move along its way,” Sielsch advised.
South Lake Tahoe police told FOX40 they made 10 arrests during the evacuation order, some charged for looting with others charged for burglary tool possession, weapons charges and outstanding warrants