Ursus Among Us: The American Black Bear in the Tahoe Basin

Gatekeeper’s Museum
North Lake Tahoe Historical Society
Lauren O’Malley
Marguerite Sprague
Tahoe City, CA

The American Black Bear is a well-known icon for the Lake Tahoe Basin. Though in recent years, human-bear conflicts have increased, sparking debate and hostility among locals, visitors, and vacation homeowners. Because objective information about the bears is hard to come by locally, the Gatekeeper’s Museum in Tahoe City created the Ursus Among Us: The American Black Bear in the Tahoe Basin exhibit to address this issue.

Ursus Among Us chronicles the history of bears in the basin, and examines the relationship between bears and people from ancient Washoe times through today. The museum sought to present information about these native animals, replacing fear with understanding and initiating productive dialogue. Another goal for the exhibit was to describe how the basin’s human-bear dynamic has evolved over time, as well as to provide practical tips about how to deal with a bear, and the impact of humans on bear behavior.

While possible solutions for a point of tension between wildlife and humans requires time and effort, Ursus Among Us creates a “go-to” place in the basin for information and understanding. This exhibit educates visitors and locals about their ursine neighbor, and sparks discussion about people and bears in the basin. The exhibit conveys information in a variety of modes and includes a space to make bear track art, as well as a “Tell Us Your Bear Story” box, where visitors can contribute their own bear experiences to the exhibit.

Ursus Among Us explores both historical and modern perspectives of the wild bears’ longstanding presence and coexistence with humans. By preserving and presenting these stories, the exhibit hopes to convey to visitors that humans are neighbors of these animals and have been for many generation