It’s both allure and alarm. Being in the wildlands means we are exposed to the wonders and dangers of nature. Living and recreating where we do, we carry an inherent responsibility to be informed. This month’s YATA helps us do just that.

First, what should you keep on your phone in preparation for wildfire? Two organizations provide excellent ideas — get these loaded on your device ASAP. Second, this summer, more bears are being hit, and sometimes killed, on our local roadways. Why is this happening and what can we do to stop it? Ann Bryant of the BEAR League answers.

~ Mayumi Elegado/Moonshine Ink

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Fire on Your Phone
Wildfire danger is at an all-time high. What are the best resources that I should have on my phone to stay informed?

Great question at this time of year! As the Tahoe Prosperity Center helped get the Alert Tahoe fire cameras installed all around Tahoe and Truckee, we always recommend checking them regularly! Each camera has amazing 360 views in the Tahoe/Truckee region and beyond. We are thrilled to continue to support these cameras and will be adding many more throughout the West! A great local source is Yuba Net, and broader, pretty up-to-date information can be found at InciWeb, which is great for details, especially if you know the name of the fire.

Finally, check out Ready for Wildfire through Cal Fire. It has an app too. I highly recommend that you have an evacuation plan in place with your family and an alternate way of checking in with them during any incident (besides cell phones, which aren’t reliable enough up here). Ideally, you have your important documents and items in a fire safe, too. Be vigilant, be aware, and stay safe, everyone!

~ Heidi Hill Drum, CEO of Tahoe Prosperity Center

Tahoe weather can be extreme all year, and currently we face severe drought and fire activity far earlier in the season than is normal for our elevation. It is important for residents and visitors to have real-time information available at hand, and for most of us, that means reaching for our mobile devices.

Red Flag Warnings result from a combination of factors (wind, temperature, low humidity, etc.) that increase fire danger. In red flag conditions, the smallest spark could turn into a catastrophic wildfire. Due to increased risk, every fire district in the Tahoe/Truckee region bans any source of outdoor open flame (including propane) while a Red Flag Warning is in effect. The National Weather Service issues Red Flag Warnings for the Tahoe/Truckee region. NWS does not have an app, but you can add a bookmark to NWS on your home screen by visiting mobile.weather.gov/. In the drop-down menu, select “add to home screen.” By visiting the bookmark, you will receive real-time information from the official source.

Emergency Alerts are issued by each county’s Office of Emergency Services. Many of us travel around the lake and regularly cross jurisdictional boundaries. It is good to know that anyone can register for official emergency alerts in all counties around Lake Tahoe. Placer Alert, El Dorado County Code Red, Douglas County Code Red, and Washoe County Code Red all allow individuals to register up to five addresses for notifications. By signing up with each county, there is an opportunity to receive a direct official notification in the event of an emergency. One could use the addresses of the fire stations around the lake as a geographically dispersed set of addresses that would provide access to early official notification of an emergency in Tahoe.

AT YOUR FINGERTIPS: InciWeb made the list of both respondents to the “fire on your phone” question. This Incident Information System compiles information from multiple agencies to give updates on specific fires.

Evacuations are conducted by law enforcement. Most agencies have an active presence on social media, so be sure to follow CHP Truckee, Placer Sheriff, CHP South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County Sheriff, NHP Northern Command, Douglas Sheriff, and Washoe Sheriff on your favorite app.

Road Closures and Conditions are important to know during emergencies, evacuations, and severe weather. Transportation officials coordinate with law enforcement during these events, so be sure to follow them. Caltrans (District 3) operates the Quickmaps app, and Nevada Department of Transportation uses the NVRoads 511 app, both of which provide real-time information on road closures, traffic congestion, chain controls, traffic cameras, etc.

Incident Information for local incidents is available through the resources listed above. For large scale incidents such as the recent Tamarack Fire, visit InciWeb or Cal Fire for details.

Air Quality Information is available at AirNow.

Stay prepared for the possibility that cellular towers may be down during emergencies, and the resources listed above may not be accessible by phone. Know all the ways in and out of the areas you plan to visit; make sure others know the route you plan to take and your schedule; and keep a map in your vehicle in the event cellular service is impacted.

~ Erin Holland, North Tahoe Fire Public Information Officer

Bears on the Road

(Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of
Our Neigh-Bears Are Threatened, published online July 14.)

There seems to be an uptick in bear fatalities on the road. Can you confirm this? What does the BEAR League think are the primary reasons for this increase? 

This season, we have definitely seen an increase in bears being hit by cars, and earlier in the year than we normally do. The BEAR League receives calls daily from motorists who collide with a bear (or another driver who witnesses the accident). Thankfully, about half of the bears survive the impact and are able to get off the road and into the woods, sore and wounded, but alive and able to mend. However, far too many die immediately or suffer on the side of the road.

HAPPY ENDING: This visitor to the BEAR League headquarters was hit by a car last summer on the West Shore, breaking an arm. He limped around during his months at the facility until winter, when he went into hibernation. This photo is the day before he went to sleep. When he woke up this spring, his limp was all but gone. Photo courtesy BEAR League

We believe the phenomenon is escalating due to the obvious increase in traffic all around Lake Tahoe and Truckee, and far too many of the drivers being totally unaware that they must watch for wildlife crossing the roads. Most of the time a collision can be averted simply by being watchful, driving the speed limit, and being constantly aware that this is wildlife habitat. 

What can we do to make the roads more bear friendly? 

The best way to make the roads more “bear friendly” would be for everyone who lives or visits Tahoe/Truckee to be aware and pay attention while driving. 

Many people think it helps to install bear crossing signs throughout the Basin, and years ago the BEAR League was successful in obtaining several of these signs through the highway departments in California and Nevada. Within days of installation, most were stolen, and replaced again and again. Plus, they made no difference in the manner in which people drove.

Overpasses and underpasses are an excellent way to keep wildlife off the roads to a degree, but they are unbelievably costly and are not really suited to the Tahoe Basin. They work better along interstate highways in big open spaces. 

The under-roadway creek culverts are a good option for the wildlife, and bears, raccoons, and coyotes use these to cross to the other side. Please keep this in mind and don’t block their access. 

As I’m writing this, the bear hotline rings. A young cub has been hit by a car just two blocks from BEAR League headquarters. We are off to see if he’s alive and if we can help him. 

An hour later … He died almost immediately, his life cut short on a curve in the road and no one even bothered to stop.

More and more videos and photos of bears interacting with humans and stumbling into human-occupied areas have been surfacing, implying an increase in bear-human interaction, which is dangerous for both species. What are the best practices for dealing with this?

Bears have always lived in the Tahoe National Forest, since long before that’s what it was called. The Washoe People lived alongside the black bear and respected the species as brothers. Back before Europeans came to Tahoe there were also grizzly bears. They were much more dangerous. The grizzlies are all gone now, with settlers killing the last one in 1922. Of all eight species of bear worldwide, the black bear is the easiest and safest for people to co-exist with. 

Our bears are very comfortable living amongst us: They den under our homes every winter (at least 100 of them); they give birth to their cubs in our cozy crawl spaces; they dine on our trash “donations” that we put out on the curb days before the trash collector arrives; they join us at the beach in hopes we will share our snacks and picnic lunches with them; they come into our yards searching for wasp traps, birdseed, squirrel food, and open kitchen doors. And in all of these multitudes of encounters, not a single human being has ever been killed by a black bear in California or Nevada. Ever. 

Each year we kill at least 3,000 bears in both states. (Some in the unpopular bear hunt, some by poachers, some by depredation permits … and many with our vehicles.) Who is the dangerous beast? We are. 

LIKE DUCKLINGS, these baby bears followed their mama single file out of an accidentally left open garage in Winter Creek in Truckee after a likely foraging session. While undeniably cute, bears are best kept away from our homes and food. For their own protection, it is our responsibility to scare them off from interacting with us. Photo by Mike Ricker

We also kill the bears with our “kindness.” We love them to death. We invite them to feel comfortable in close proximity to us. We talk sweetly to them and make them feel welcome. We stand and take videos of them instead of yelling, “Go away!” We feed them, on purpose or inadvertently. We feel bad about yelling at them and letting them know they shouldn’t be this close. We make neighborhood pets out of them. And this is the problem. We must tell them the exact opposite in order to keep them safe, and stop them from feeling like they can hang out in our gardens and under our decks

It’s called “tough love.” When you yell at them you can say, gruffly and aggressively, “I love you, now go away!” Not that they will understand the words, but perhaps you’ll feel better about it. The two most important tips to remember are: Don’t be afraid of the bears … make bears afraid of you! And: no food; be mean.

The BEAR League is here to help in any way we possibly can. Give us a call, (530) 525-7297 or check our website for lots of information at savebears.org. 

~ Ann Bryant, BEAR League Executive Director


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Author

  • Mayumi Elegado was made in the Philippines, born in Minnesota, and has lived on both U.S. coasts, plus a few more shorelines overseas. From an early age, she was passionate about the written word and the power of storytelling. This interest fortuitously led to her current position as publisher/owner of Moonshine Ink. She has lived in Truckee since 1999, and dreams of being a surfing mountain cowgirl. Connect with Mayumi Visit: M-Tu, Th-Fr 9:30am - 6pm 10317 Riverside Dr Truckee, CA 96161 Email: melegado (at) moonshineink.com

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