Hungry bears getting trapped in cars at Tahoe resort as they sneak into vehicles looking for food and then can't get out

  • Third bear incident in two weeks as local cops break vehicle windows to free stuck bears
  • Activist groups use aggressive tactics against game wardens who set bear traps near Lake Tahoe
  • Resort owners called 'murderers' and 'executioners' in increasingly heated battle to protect hungry wildlife

By Associated Press and Daily Mail Reporter


Police officers in a California town smashed a car window Sunday night to free a black bear that had locked itself into a Honda SUV, the latest episode in an apparent spree of trapped-bear incidents that has hit the area near the resort region of Lake Tahoe.

The problem is proving to be region-wide as animal rights activists fighting to protect the local bear population allegedly branded Lake Tahoe business owners 'murderers' and 'executioners' for killing strays.

Local police said the wandering bear caused substantial damage to the vehicle parked in the town of Truckee, near Lake Tahoe, and claimed officers broke the window because they couldn't locate the owner of the car.

The latest incident, the third in just two weeks in the small town that sits on the Donner Pass, infamous for extreme winter weather, is the most-recent in a pattern of bear-related auto drama that has swept the Truckee area.

A bear trapped in a car in Truckee, California

This Black Bear was trapped in a Honda SUV in Truckee, California, near Lake Tahoe. Police smashed a window to rescue the stressed animal

'There was major damage to all three of these vehicles,' Truckee police said in a statement. 'Imagine what a stressed, angry bear could do stuck in your car.'

Last week, a bear stuck in a car parked in Truckee was released by the car's owner while the previous week saw another bear trapped in a car that broke a window to escape.

'Bears can and do open unlocked car doors,' police said. 'Never leave food or anything smelly in your car.'

Dumped trash attracts hungry bears

A photograph posted on the Facebook page 'Lake Tahoe Wall of Shame' shows dumped garbage that attracts bears

The recent incidents have highlighted an increasingly heated battle over bears between animal rights activists and game wardens on the California-Nevada border.

Activists in Lake Tahoe are using aggressive strategies to keep California and Nevada game wardens from trapping bears that break into homes, businesses and campsites in search of food.

Members of the Bear League, a grass-roots group that tries to educate people not to fear the animals and to keep better tabs on their trash, have started keeping vigils by traps and confronting the game wardens who set and check on them.

'They are just gorgeous creatures, and they are so misunderstood,' Carolyn Stark, a Bear League board member, told the Sacramento Bee.


Starked helped maintain a round-the-clock vigil at a trap recently set at an Incline Village home where a female bear had twice broken into the garage.

'It’s so unfair,' said Stark. 'I want to help protect them.'

While Truckee police advised local residents to refer to recommendations from the Bear League, other activists have coated traps with Pine-Sol to deter bears and even used teddy bears as decoys, the Sacremento Bee reported.

An American Black Bear similar to those in the Lake Tahoe region

An American Black Bear photographed in Mammoth Lakes, California, similar to those found in the Lake Tahoe region. This bear has climbed a tree for safety

A Facebook page called the Lake Tahoe Wall of Shame prints the addresses of places that have been careless with garbage bins or where traps are rumored to be imminent.

Residents and business owners who have called wildlife officials to report bears on their property also have been caught in the crosshairs with anonymous threats and online slurs.

John Brissenden, manager of Sorensen’s Resort, said employees were threatened after two bears were killed there last year.

'We were branded as murderers and executioners,' Brissenden said. 'It was alarming, discouraging, given our 40 years of protecting wildlife habitat, including bear habitat.'

Bear League Executive Director Ann Bryant said her group only intervenes legally and does not endorse threats or trap-tampering.

'We are accused of all kinds of things,' Bryant said. 'People who don’t like bears don’t like us. We know that.'

The combination of tactics has made property owners reluctant to call wildlife officials for assistance, Nevada Department of Wildlife director Tony Wasley said.

'We’ve had residences broken into by bears where the occupants made the statement that the people were more dangerous than the bears,' Wasley said.

'For that reason, they didn’t want a trap or, in one case, asked that the trap be removed.'

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