Food Storage Requirements during Hunting Season
by Bridger-Teton National Forest
September 26, 2007
As the hunting season begins, officials on the Bridger-Teton National Forest are reminding Forest visitors to take extra precautions while hunting in bear country. The Bridger-Teton is under a mandatory Food Storage Order for all of the Forest north of the Snake River on the Jackson Ranger District and north of Boulder Lake on the Pinedale Ranger District. The order applies to the Teton and Gros Ventre Wilderness areas and much of the Bridger Wilderness area. Food Storage is strongly recommended for the remainder of the Forest.
The Food Storage Order on the Bridger-Teton National Forest is in place to promote human safety and provide for the protection of both the black and grizzly bear.
The Order requires that:
• unattended food or attractants be stored in hard-sided vehicles, bear-resistant containers, or hung above ground out of the reach of bears.
Additional prohibitions related to management of ungulate carcasses are also part of the Order. Humans and bears are increasingly at risk in areas where they coexist and where food is available or improperly stored. The Food Storage Order has proven to be very effective in reducing bear/human conflicts.
The Bridger-Teton has been working for over a decade to help the public understand that for their safety and that of others we all need to follow important and necessary steps to secure food, attractants and garbage from both black and grizzly bears. Bears forage over large areas in search of food as they emerge from their dens and begin the process of gaining weight, caring for their young, and preparing again to den for the winter. When easily digestible and high-calorie foods can be found in camps, bears learn to favorably associate camps with satisfying food requirements for themselves and/or their young. This begins the process of bears learning to associate food and people. Because bears are highly intelligent with a keen sense of smell, they remember campsites where they have been successful at getting food. Bears will then return to these campsites, used by people for preparing food and cooking, repeatedly over time. This association between people and food becomes a problem not simply for recreationists at one campsite—but for all campsites within a bear’s range. Bears that receive a food reward or other attractants in people’s camps are increasingly emboldened and often behave aggressively in their efforts to secure food. They become nuisances by learning to approach and raid camps where food is not properly stored, and this simply reinforces their association between people and food. Such bears can become dangerous to people and usually end up dead through management actions or in defense of life and property. Bears are especially attracted to livestock and hunter-killed ungulate carcasses and often aggressively defend them. Location and availability of carcasses to bears in relationship to human use areas is critical. Hunters are asked to keep big game carcasses ˝ mile from any Forest Service system trail.
The practice of proper food storage is akin to ‘being a good neighbor.’ Consistent and proper food storage among both backcountry and front country users is a critical matter, as is the issue of proper food storage at the interface between private lands and the Forest lands. “Safety is fundamental to this issue,” said Jackson District Biologist Terry Hershey. “The simple and straightforward goal is for bears to not associate food with people. If this can be accomplished, people using and camping on the Forest will be safer by avoiding and preventing human-bear conflicts before they occur,” he said.
Recreational use is increasing on the Bridger-Teton, and conflicts between humans and bears are occurring in many places. Both black and grizzly bears co-occur throughout portions of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and grizzly bears are expanding their range. Due to the expansion of grizzly bear range, many areas formerly occupied only by black bears are now occupied by both species. In some areas, the occurrence of both species may be forcing black bears into marginal habitats where foods are scarce and into campgrounds where human foods and other attractants are available. The Forest Service has documented numerous instances and examples of improper food storage where both grizzly and black bears have become habituated to human food. This is placing both humans and bears at risk. In fact, many bears, both blacks and grizzlies, have already had to be removed from areas or killed. In other areas across the west, human injuries and mortality have occurred as a result of bear encounters.