California Bears Breaking into Homes As Residents Return After Wildfires

by Matthew Memrick

California Wildfire evacuees returning to their homes may come across a new danger: Bears.

As many California residents return and wonder who’s been sleeping in their beds, law enforcement officials have warnings for them to watch out for bears.

“The delicate balance between humans and bears has been upset,” Sgt Simon Brown of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office told reporters, per the Associated Press.

Many empty homes have been that way for more than a week.

As a result, bolder bears have flocked to more urban areas to escape the wildfires and look for food as they leave destroyed habitats.

Bears Reported In Several Break-Ins

Law enforcement officials have reported areas of tampered garbage cans and a few inhabited homes.

KCRA reported that of 17 reported break-ins, bears caused 15 of them. 

Brown told The San Francisco Chronicle that his men would lure the animal from homes if the suspected house has the animal.

One bear expert had warnings for returning residents.

“When you come home and if you find that it looks like a window’s open or door’s open and something has accessed into your house, don’t rush in and definitely don’t block that spot,” said Tahoe expert Toogee Sielsch.

Likewise, if a door or window is open, don’t block that entrance. A bear could go out of the house the way it came in.

Lots of Tahoe-area Bears

Sielsch says an average of 30 to 50 bears live within the Tahoe city limits. He went further to say that, on any given day, an estimated 500 live just on the California side of the Tahoe Basin.

When authorities lifted mandatory evacuation orders for South Lake Tahoe and other areas on Sunday, they did so after firefighters contained more of the Caldor Fire. 

As of 3:52 p.m. on Monday, firefighters announced that a 44 percent containment rate. Amazingly, they reported 216,358 burned acres. With smoke in the air, officials said the threat of fire was still present in the area. 

The Aug. 14 Caldor Fire’s growth led U.S. Forest Service officials to close all national forests in the state. The closings, which continue through Sept. 17, are a result of multiple state fires. 

Fires Affecting Young Bears

Officials have spotted several young bears affected by the fires.

Near the nation’s largest fire, the Dixie Fire, officials watch one emaciated bear cub see if it is an orphan in August.

One firefighter told The Associated Press about the particular bear. A group watched its tendencies after several days of it circling a burned area.

“Generally, when you see them with a sow or a mother bear, they’ll stay with the mother bear and run off,” said Johnnie Macy, who was deployed from Golden, Colorado, to battle the fire.

Macy said that this animal hasn’t stayed. 

Officials said a wildlife rescue team was in the process of extracting the cub.

In August, a cub with burns to its paws was transported from a fire in Siskiyou County in California. On another occasion near Lake Tahoe, a hurt cub left a wildlife care center. The animal suffered from burns.

In Washington state late month, four black bear cubs were rescued in eastern Washington. Officials euthanized one bear cub after injuries it suffered.