A man visiting the Lake Tahoe area returned to his vacation rental after dining out to find it had been broken into by a large black bear. According to the man, the bear charged at him, forcing him to shoot and kill the animal. The incident illustrates the issues with growing bear populations in the Tahoe region.
The unidentified visitor to South Lake Tahoe returned to his vacation home on June 24 to find the 400-500 pound female bear rummaging around the kitchen in the upstairs of the home. The man grabbed his pistol and tried to scare the bear off. According to the man, the bear then charged at him. After the bear was on top of him, he shot it point blank in the head. The bear was found in the nearby wilderness the next day and euthanized.
Wildlife officials who investigated the incident called it self defense. Tahoe bear advocates think the deadly incident could have been avoided.
“I don’t want the bear to be blamed,” said Ann Bryant, executive director and co-founder of Tahoe’s BEAR League to the SFGate. “Close and lock your doors and windows, especially if you’re not home. Bears know how to open unsecured doors and windows and they will come in.”
Bryant asserts that when bears are discovered in homes, they are quick to retreat the way they came in. Visitors should allow the bear to leave without confronting them.
“They know they don’t belong in there,” she said. “That house is someone else’s den and the owner of that den just came home. So the bear is being submissive and they just want out. They will always try and run out the way they came in.”
Following a lengthy investigation, sheriff’s deputies and wildlife officials believe the shooters story. The trail of blood and bullet casings corroborated his account and when the bear was found the next day, it was much bigger than an average bear. This is an indication of a bear that regularly indulges in human food, like many other Tahoe bears.
That didn’t stop people from criticizing the shooter online for not allowing the bear to leave peacefully. Local bear enthusiasts point to the the tourists lack of knowledge of local wildlife as the reason the bear died.
“The amount of victim shaming that has taken place since this incident has occurred, that’s a little bit disappointing,” said Capt. Patrick Foy of California Fish and Wildlife’s Law Enforcement Division. “People were very rapid to jump to conclusions that this person was not defending himself or caused the problem himself. We have no evidence to suggest that this person wasn’t doing anything other than defending his life against a very major and serious threat inside his own home.”
Anyone visiting the Lake Tahoe region is encouraged to discourage bear break ins by closing/locking doors and windows of homes and cars, not leaving food in homes and cars and using bear safe trash receptacles. Learn more about Tahoe bear safety here.