On July 29, 2012, an angry lakefront property owner allegedly shot and killed a well-known bear named "Sunny" on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore. Sunny, the unofficial mascot of the Tahoe BEAR League, a bear advocacy group, was shot in the back after wandering onto a property to get food from a cooler left outside on a porch.

"Sunny" was a friendly, mellow bear that enjoyed daytime strolls (hence her name).

The shooting death of Sunny enraged many residents in the Homewood neighborhood where she was remembered fondly. Anne Bryant, Executive Director of the BEAR League said, “This was a bear that was very much loved. She was a gentle, sweet bear. She was a neighbor.”

Part of a new bear awareness exhibit at the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society's Gatekeepers Cabin Museum located near the Tahoe Dam in Tahoe City. Note that it is "Sunny's" face in the center panel. People and bears must learn to cohabitate with each other in the Tahoe Basin.

Unlike the grizzly bear which was hunted and poisoned to extinction in California by the 1920s, the California Black Bear is a common mammal found throughout the Sierra Nevada.

Grizzly bears were the most dangerous animal in early California. These ferocious predators terrorized Indians, vaqueros, Forty-Niners and ranchers. They were hunted to extinction by the 1920s in the Golden State.

In the Tahoe Basin, bears have become a nuisance problem for some homeowners. In certain areas around the Lake, bears are often breaking into houses in search of food. Once a bear locates an easily accessible food source, destructive behavior can become a persistent problem, especially for second homeowners who are often away for weeks at a time with food left in cupboards and refrigerators.

Tahoe homeowners that have been victimized by intruding bears are less sympathetic to the plight of these beautiful animals just trying to survive in an increasingly urbanized region. Tahoe residents are urged to be "bear aware."

Black bears are naturally afraid of people and easily scared away, but they are also intelligent and learn quickly.

Several companies have sprung up recently that will electrify a home’s perimeter and windows to discourage bear intrusions using electrical shocks. These new technologies are much more efficient and humane than older tactics such as hammering scores of nails through lumber and placing the boards with the metal nail tips up below exterior windows or doors.

The fur of California black bears can be black, brown, blonde, or copper red in color. This display is also at the new North Lake Tahoe Historical Society's "Ursus Among Us" exhibit.

Bears are omnivores that in nature have a varied diet, but in Tahoe they have also learned that it’s much easier to raid unsecured dumpsters behind restaurants for pizza crusts or other kitchen refuse, than rambling through the woods looking for insects, berries, and grubs.

In recent years, restaurant employees have been encouraged to keep trash dumpsters securely locked. Volunteers have distributed rock climbing carabineers to secure dumpster lids and prevent unwanted bear activity. More and more homeowners are installing “bear boxes,” bear-proof metal containers to hold their trash cans.

Dumpster labels have been distributed to Tahoe restaurants to increase awareness of bear feeding problems.

Much of the blame for nuisance bear activity is placed on unaware residents and tourists who put trash outside days before collection pickup. Waste food attracts bears, as well as neighborhood dogs, coyotes, and raccoons.

Urban visitors have little knowledge of the civilization-wilderness interface where humans and animals must learn to cohabitate in harmony. Sunny’s death was a stark wake-up call that Tahoe residents and visitors have a long way to go before that harmony is achieved.




7 comments (Add your own)

1. Kathryn Bricker wrote:
The illegal and legal killing of Tahoe bears is injustice, pure and simple. When human food sources are unsecured and wild bears are lured into the human interface, our governmental agencies sanction capital punishment for the simple act of their being hungry. This is wrong. Please join a bear advocacy organization in the Tahoe Basin such as the Bear League or NoBearHuntNV to help create policy changes and programs that ensure bears the respect and safety they deserve.

Fri, August 17, 2012 @ 9:00 PM

2. Richard Schnur wrote:
What a JERK! I hope he gets a BIG fine and 30-90 days in jail!

Sat, August 18, 2012 @ 9:37 AM

3. Kat S wrote:
In 30 years in Tahoe, bears have never been a nuisance to me or my family. They are part of the culture and we love them. People that aren't responsible with trash and hunters are why the bears are dying. I haven't seen one in a year.

Sat, August 18, 2012 @ 3:12 PM

4. jacklyn campomizzi wrote:
I am from Ohio, where seeing a live bear might not in a whole lifetime. We are planning a trip west(including Lake Tahoe), and something I DO expect to see are live bears. If people object to wildlife in an area, they should get a vacation condo where there aren't wildlife visitors.
We experience somewhat the same situation here with raccoons. People build a house in the woods, and then complain about wildlife, and want it trapped. I, myself, leave out a large quantity of dog food for raccoons. We have NEVER had the garbage disturbed in our neighborhood. A fed raccoon is a nondestructive raccoon.

Sun, August 19, 2012 @ 10:17 AM

5. Helenty Hagen wrote:
The bears and other wildlife were here before us! I love the wildlife around us. People need to learn to live with them by securing their trash, putting unsafe objects away etc.

Wed, August 22, 2012 @ 9:44 PM

6. Lyn Pollard wrote:
As I have said before, if you don't want bears in YOUR backyard, don't move into theirs. It isn't a difficult idea to grasp, if you can accept the fact that you are NOT the most important "being' on this earth. Intelligence is judged on how information is assimilated and then acted upon, and it would seem this unfortunate individual ( yes, I pity him for his emptiness) is grossly lacking. May his life be long and lonely...

Thu, August 23, 2012 @ 7:30 AM

7. Bill lawson wrote:
I have a real dispute with the Tahoe Bear League in Homewood Ca, as to
how they handle and rehabilitate bears.Ann Bryant is the most outspoken
of the group and has stated she "found the bear Sunny in a ditch
malnourished and cared for him until he was healthy and released him.I
love bears but they should not be handled by the unqualified. There are
pictures and proof she made Sunny the bear comfortable with humans and
there is even photos of Sunny with the family dog on the Tahoe Bear
League's Facebook page.While I was looking around the web for a better
qualified group to handle bears I discovered the Lake Tahoe Wildlife
care facility in Southlake Tahoe,while reading about them I discovered
they are the only LICENSED bear care facility in California.
Here's my question.How do you get people that are unqualified to
rehabilitate bears to stop.
On a side note I challenged the Bear League to gather data on how many
of the bears they are "rehabilitating" get shot as opposed to bears that
are allowed to remain wild.

Thu, September 6, 2012 @ 12:05 PM

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