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New $1,000 fine for letting bears into trash at Tahoe

  • This photo taken Dec. 27. 2012 shows Kerry Taber, a compliance office with the town of Truckee, Calif., showing the inside of a bear-resistant garbage container . (AP Photo/The Gazette-Journal, Marilyn Newton)

RENO, Nev. — Another Lake Tahoe-area community is cracking down on people who allow easy access to garbage for bears, dogs, raccoons and other animals.

The town of Truckee, Calif., has adopted new rules designed to prevent careless handling of trash and the critters that often come with it.

Similar to regulations at California's nearby Tahoe Donner subdivision and Lake Tahoe's Incline Village, Truckee's trash ordinance comes with teeth: repeat violators face fines of up to $1,000.

The rules approved by the Truckee Town Council took effect a week ago. Some say the move to address trash-eating bears was long overdue.

"It's just not something you want to encourage," Truckee Mayor Carolyn Wallace Dee told the Reno Gazette-Journal (http://tinyurl.com/c5a4f9s).

"We don't want to invite them into neighborhoods by having trash so readily available. It's an issue for us," she said.

Easy access to trash has long been identified as a central issue when it comes to mounting problems between people and bears in the Reno-Tahoe area.

Bears that become accustomed to eating garbage teach that behavior to cubs. They are more likely to break into homes or vehicles, dangerous behavior that often ends with them killed as a threat to public safety. They grow bigger from a calorie-rich diet and often stop hibernating during winter months because food is so readily available, experts said.

Dan Olsen, manager of animal services and code compliance in Truckee, said they decided to update trash regulations after receiving up to 50 complaints of animals getting into garbage since last spring, about half of them black bears. He said existing rules simply weren't addressing the problem.

"Without deterring the bears from getting into garbage, essentially leaving feeders out for them, they are certainly not going to go away," Olsen said.

Now, the first verified complaint of animals getting into trash in Truckee earns a warning letter and the potential requirement to replace a trash container if badly damaged. A second complaint within a year can come with a $235 fine. A third can result in a $1,000 fine and an order to install an animal-resistant garbage container, the last part constituting the "end regulation."

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