updated 6/22/2009 1:44:04 PM ET 2009-06-22T17:44:04

Wet weather in June has spurred a bumper crop of berries and other vegetation favored by bears, leading to a decrease in bear interactions with humans in the Sierra, wildlife biologists said.

Experts also said recession has meant fewer people staying at vacation rentals that generate less trash to lure bruins in the Lake Tahoe area, according to a Reno Gazette-Journal story published Monday.

"The calls are down considerably," said Carl Lackey, a biologist and bear expert with the Nevada Department of Wildlife. "Definitely, this wet spring is just awesome for bears, as well as all the other wildlife out there."

Thunderstorms in the area brought eight straight days of rain from May to June, already making for one of the wettest Junes in Reno since record-keeping started in 1870. Lackey said the moisture nourished bear food such as manzanita berries, chokeberries, wild roses, forbs and grasses, while boosting populations of the insects, squirrels and other critters upon which bears prey.

Jason Holley, a bear biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, said those conditions mean the bears won't "have to search so far for food" and should help avoid a major problem with human-bear conflicts.

Lackey said that so far, he has captured about six or seven problem bears, fewer than the same time last year when wet weather also helped limit bear interaction with humans. Serious drought conditions in 2007 caused a record number of problems with bears in Nevada, California and other Western states, with several situations on which bears broke into occupied homes in search of food. In Nevada, 157 bears were captured, some repeatedly.

"I've never seen anything like it," Holley said.

The biologists warned, however, that summer just started and that hot, dry conditions can quickly deplete vegetation.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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