LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KRON) — A wild black bear was reportedly killed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife after it clawed a woman in the face as it was trying to escape from her North Lake Tahoe home.
The Placer County Sheriff’s Office described the June 16 incident as a “bear attack” in “broad daylight.”
“The victim left their front door open, and the bear walked into the home while the victim was outside,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote. When the woman returned home, she came face-to-face with the bear. The bear “scratched the victim’s face and knocked them to the ground,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote.
The woman received medical care at a hospital and is expected to be OK, deputies said.
According to the Lake Tahoe BEAR League, the woman’s neighbors saw her periodically feeding wild bears and coyotes around her house in the months leading up to the incident.
“A person was observed, by her neighbors, repeatedly tossing food out her doors for the bears and coyotes. Many people tried to stop her from doing this but were not successful. (She) was seemingly not comprehending the consequences of her actions,” the BEAR League wrote.
Bear advocates took issue with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office describing the incident as a “bear attack,” and pointed out that the bear was only trying to escape from its face-to-face surprise encounter with the homeowner.
BEAR League founder Ann Bryant said if a bear truly “attacked” a person, the person would not survive.
Bears make “bluffs,” such as charging or swiping with their paws, to make defensive escapes. Law enforcement, state wildlife officials, and the media have often reported a “bluff” incorrectly as a “bear attack,” Bryant said. “If it was a ‘bear attack,’ the person would be dead. I’ve never seen an attack. I’ve seen a lot of bluff charges. They will stomp on the ground, huff, spit, and come charging at you. It has happened to me many times,” Bryant said.
Deputies said the incident exposes the importance of being “Bear Aware” and never leaving unsecured food in unlocked vehicles, homes, and campsites.
The Sheriff’s Office wrote, “BE BEAR AWARE. This is a reminder for anyone visiting North Lake Tahoe, and North Lake Tahoe residents alike: always be aware of your surroundings, and do not become complacent with ‘friendly bears’ — they are not! Bears are wild animals, and they have instincts. Bears have an extraordinary sense of smell and trust us — they WILL claw their way into anything to get to the food!”
After the woman was clawed by the bear, she called 911. Deputies found the bear up a tree near the home. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife sedated the bear and confirmed through its DNA that it was the same bear who entered the woman’s house. The bear was then euthanized, according to the BEAR League.
“The DNA matched and the poor bear was killed. The DFW supervisor was in contact with the BEAR League during this tragedy, he nor his staff like to kill bears, so he asked our help in using this case as yet another attempt to remind people NOT to Feed the Bears,” the BEAR League wrote.
People feeding bears around Lake Tahoe has led to bear deaths in past years.
Bryant said one part-time Lake Tahoe resident tossed apples out to a young bear daily. When the woman went out of town, the bear went to the neighbor’s house trying to find its daily apple. The neighbor reacted by fatally shooting the bear.
Euthanizing bears does not help decrease the number of human-bear encounters, Bryant said. “The dead bears don’t teach the (alive) bears any lessons,” she said.
Some people believe bears are “dangerous man-eating monsters. They are not. No black bear has ever killed a person in California or Nevada,” Bryant said.