Wildlife officials are bracing for more human-bear encounters than ever as this snow-covered spring in the Tahoe area is going to make for more challenging foraging for the hungry animals.

The black bear population of the Tahoe Basin, estimated at around 300, has been through a lot the last couple of years, with human-created fire and pandemic-related crowds at the lake disrupting their routines in multiple ways. As the Chronicle reports, wildlife experts are trying to prepare the local public for more run-ins than usual with bears this spring, given that many will be waking up from hibernation to a much snowier landscape than they've seen in years.

"The concern certainly is that there will be more opportunities for them to come across backyards and trash and human sources of food, which we don't want them to access," says Peter Tira with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, speaking to the Chronicle.

While some bears around Tahoe have forgone hibernation altogether in recent years, finding that there is plentiful food around throughout the winter, others likely took to their dens after the early snows started falling.

Both the groggy and hungry bears who were hibernating and those that weren't will be out and about, likely forced closer to where people live by piles of snow and forest floors that are still buried many feet deep.

And the problem may only get worse as we get deeper into the spring season, and the snow takes much longer than usual to melt. All those plowed streets and driveways will make for easy pathways to trash and/or garages stocked with food!

Many will remember last year the stories of Hank the Tank which emerged in the winter of 2021/22, telling of an enormous 300-pound black bear who was blamed for ransacking 30 homes in South Lake Tahoe in search of food. Later DNA testing proved that this was not one but, in fact, three equally large and voracious bears who were all unapologetically breaking into homes to eat.

Expect more stories like that any day now... and lock up your trash and stay out of their way, Tahoe folks!

Previously: It Ain’t Just Hank the Tank — DNA Shows At Least Four Different Bears Plundering Tahoe Homes

Photo: Zdenek Machecek