INCLINE VILLAGE (CBS13) — Most of us have heard the phrase “bear hug,” but some students at a Lake Tahoe college were literally giving bears hugs.
“It’s not the best idea I’ve ever heard in my life,” said Miles Beck, a student.
Students are being warned after they were caught on camera feeding bears outside their dorm room. Images of students feeding the black bears at Sierra Nevada College have circulated through the campus on social media.
“There’s a picture going around via forwarded email of a student feeding a bear outside the window where the mouth of the bear was just inches away from the kid’s hand,” said student Jeremy Katz.
Cellphone cameras captured several encounters, including a bear in a dorm room. Administrators say the student left the window open and the black bear crawled in to get food.
“I think they are putting their own safety at risk,” said Katie, a student.
These two photos, along with rumors that students were even trying to pet and hug the bears, prompted the school to take action. The school started a campaign: A fed bear is a dead bear.
“Had a whole bear awareness campaign here on campus,” said college spokesman Will Hoida. “We were able to bring in a local bear expert who came in and talked to our students and addressed the various issues.”
While feeding the bears may seem harmless, bear advocate Carolyn Stark says the animals start to become comfortable around humans.
“What they did at the college caused problems for other businesses in town where bears entered their front doors,” she said.
“We never want to see a bear put down so we want to let them know that if you leave your trash out, if you feed a bear, basically you are going to get that bear killed,” Hoida said.
The bears are eventually killed by the Department of Fish & Game as they become accustomed to domestic food. But some students claim the message isn’t sinking in.
“People are probably still feeding bears and they are definitely taking pictures of them. I see in my Facebook a feed of all these bear shots behind people’s properties,” said a student.
The college is taking further precautions to ensure these bears don’t end up on campus by installing animal-proof trash and recycle bins.