Wanted: A 500-pound black bear that has broken into nearly 30 California homes

By Sara Smart, CNN

A new neighbor has moved into a California town and is causing concern.

For months now, a 500 pound black bear wandered the streets of the Tahoe Keys area in South Lake Tahoe, about 100 miles east of Sacramento.

In the space of seven months, the animal caused extensive damage to 33 properties and broke into 28 homes, according to a February 17 blog post from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

Fortunately, according to CDFW, there have been no direct attacks on humans or domestic animals in the area.

Residents flooded police lines with disturbing calls, and CDFW said more than 100 individual sightings of the bear have been reported to South Lake Tahoe police.

CDFW spokesperson Peter Tira told CNN the department has been tracking incidents with this black bear since the spring of 2021.

“The incidents mostly occurred during the summer and fall of 2021 when the bear was binge eating, adding calories to survive the winter,” Tira said. Overeating, according to United States National Park Serviceforces bears to eat and drink almost non-stop during the fall in preparation for hibernation.

This bear, according to CDFW, has lost its fear of people and associates people with access to food. His big size helps it break into homes as it can push open front doors and garage doors.

In October, a California woman was mutilated by another black bear who broke into his cabin north of Lake Tahoe and searched his kitchen. The woman suffered scratches and other injuries all over her body.

There are a few options to keep the community and the bear safe: relocate, place the bear in a facility, or euthanasia. The latter option has local bear advocacy groups like BEAR League concerning.

Ann Bryant, Group Executive Director, told CNN affiliate KCRA other options are available other than euthanasia.

“The BEAR League contacted the manager of an excellent out-of-state facility wildlife sanctuary who accepted he had space and would be very willing to give this bear a forever home,” Bryant told KCRA.

However, CDFW said relocation comes with many demands and can be detrimental to the animal’s mental health.

According to KCRA, the BEAR League group offered to pay all relocation costs.

“Although the Lake Tahoe area has a healthy and dense bear population, euthanizing an animal is always our last option,” Tira said.

If CDFW captures the bear, he said he would assess whether to move him to the out-of-state facility. His current location on Friday is unknown, but his last reported sighting was days ago when he was seen walking down a Tahoe Keys street, CDFW said.

CDFW advises area residents to stay alert and store and dispose of food responsibly, as bears are motivated by scent.

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