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Visitor's Guide to Black Bears in Truckee and Food Storage

Alex Silgalis
April 6, 2023
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Truckee is home to beautiful scenery, hundreds of miles of trails, and wildlife which includes bears. Out of the three species found in North America, the only one to be found in California is the Black Bear, regardless of their color. When staying in Truckee-Tahoe and recreating, be sure that you pay them the respect they deserve. Here’s a few tips on how you can do that.

Keep Trash, Recycling, Compost, and Scented Items Secured

It’s estimated that black bears' sense of smell is about seven times greater than a bloodhound's. To ensure bears stay wild and happy it’s up to us to reduce those temptations. Wait until after 5:00 am on the day of collection to put out your trash. As the cartoon Yogi Bear showed, black bears love to steal a pic-a-nic basket and that includes trash. If you own a home in Truckee, we suggest diving deeper into trash management by reading Keep Truckee Green’s Bear Awareness page.

Lodging in Truckee? Advice for Visitors

Being Bear Aware isn’t just on the trail, but also where you lay your head for the night. Even if you don’t step into the woods, you may still encounter a bear on vacation. BBQing is an enjoyable thing to do on vacation but be sure to burn off any food particles and ask your lodging provider for details on how to clean and store the grill. Also, make sure to remove any trash (i.e. granola bar wrappers), food, or scented items (e.g. sunscreen) from your vehicle as well as keeping the doors and windows closed. And before you leave for the day, check that all windows and doors are closed and locked. 

Hiking, Camping, and Outdoor Recreation

Be alert while on the trail, and aware that we share the outdoors with bears. Regardless if you’re strolling along the Donner Rim Trail or taking a walk on the paved Truckee Legacy River Trail, you should be versed on how to be “Bearwise.” When hiking, make noise, travel in groups, and pay attention to bear signs like scat and tracks. If you do encounter a bear, remain calm and back away slowly while facing the bear. Raise your arms and speak in a calm voice.  For peace of mind on the trails, consider carrying Bear Spray and know how to use it.

Whether you’re hiking, camping, or enjoying another form of outdoor recreation, remember to secure your food and Leave No Trace. Understand how to lock bear-resistant dumpsters and garbage cans and pack out your trash. If you see a trash can or dumpster overflowing, use Request Truckee to report the issue.

Watch this video by Donner Memorial State Park to learn how to use Bear-Proof Dumpsters:

Wildlife Viewing - Enjoy Truckee-Tahoe Bears from a Distance 

It’s exciting to see Bears in their home but even us humans wouldn’t like you strolling into our yard. Give these critters at least a hundred yards of space. Or, better yet use a pair of binoculars or a telephoto lens to improve your view. If you see a bear along the road, do not stop near it and do not block traffic. Rather, drive at least 100 yards and then pull over in a designated roadside pull-offs to observe the bear from afar. 

Dogs & Bears

While getting fresh air is a good thing for your dog AND you, it’s always a good idea to have them leashed and under voice control. Respect the bear's space, do not approach it, and leave how you came. Even better is to consider getting a bear bell for your dog to wear, giving the bear a chance to hear and avoid you and your dog. 

What Should I do if I see a Bear?

  • If a bear is causing property damage or a public safety issue, contact the Truckee Police Department at (530) 550-2320. 
  • For questions or help with bear concerns, or to report unusual bear behavoir, call the Bear League’s 24-hour hotline at 530-525-7297 or visit their website at savebears.org.

Thanks for Taking Care of Bears in Truckee & Keeping Wildlife Wild

Following these tips helps keep Bears wild which is essential for them to stay happy and healthy. Bears that continue to forage in trash cans, frequent campgrounds and picnic areas, where they may gain access to human food will become a danger to themselves and everyone around them. To protect human life and property, bears that seek human food must be removed so remember it’s up to us to make sure that doesn’t happen.

More Resources:

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