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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 has been roaming the streets in the Tahoe Keys area of South Lake Tahoe, about 100 miles east of Sacramento.

In the span of seven months, the animal caused extensive damage at 33 properties and forcefully entered 28 homes, according to a February 17 blog post by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

Luckily, the CDFW said, there have been no direct attacks on humans or pets in the area.

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

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

“The incidents primarily occurred during the summer and fall of 2021 when the bear was in hyperphagia, adding calories to survive the winter,” Tira said. Hyperphagia, according to the US National Park Service, causes bears to eat and drink nearly nonstop during the fall in preparation for hibernation.

This bear, according to CDFW, has lost its fear of people, and is associating people with access to food. His large size helps him break into homes as he can push through front doors and garage doors.

Back in October, a California woman was mauled by a different black bear that broke into her northern Lake Tahoe cabin and rummaged through her kitchen. The woman suffered scratches and other wounds all over her body.

There are a few options to keep the community and bear safe: relocation, placing the bear in a facility, or euthanasia. This last option has local bear advocacy groups like BEAR League concerned.

Ann Bryant, executive director of the group, told CNN affiliate KCRA other options are available other than euthanasia.

“The BEAR League reached out to the director of an excellent out-of-state wildlife sanctuary who agreed he has room and would be very willing to give this bear a permanent home,” Bryant told KCRA.

However, CDFW said relocation comes with a lot of requirements and can take a toll on the animal’s mental health.

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

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

If CDFW does capture the bear, it said it will evaluate the possibility of moving him to the out-of-state facility. His current location, as of Friday, is unknown, but his last reported sighting was a few days ago when he was seen walking down a street in the Tahoe Keys, CDFW said.

CDFW is advising residents in the area to stay vigilant and responsibly store and dispose of food, as bears are driven by scent.

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