The U.S. Forest Service is trying to get a jump on unwanted bear encounters in the Aspen area. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Forest Service orders campers to keep food in sealed storage bins at campgrounds
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A spate of bear encounters in the Aspen area has prompted the U.S. Forest Service to require campers to store their food, cooking equipment, cooking utensils, and coolers in bear-resistant containers, such as a closed, locked vehicle or a food locker.
The order affects all developed recreation sites on the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District in the upper Roaring Fork Valley of Pitkin County including the designated campsites along Lincoln Creek and Castle Creek. Nineteen sites on the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District in Eagle County are also included.
The Forest Service is trying to get an early handle on unwanted encounters after a series of incidents in late May, when a large bear approached campers at one or more camp sites and was undeterred by human presence, shouting, car horns, and other noise and commotion.
One camper reported that the bear tried to open a car door with people and a dog inside. Other campers that improperly stored food and garbage probably played a major role in these incidents. When bears associate food and garbage with humans and their belongings, they will become habituated to the human environment.
The food storage order helps break the bear’s link between human presence and a possible reward of food or garbage. If bears don’t get rewarded, their natural behavior is to avoid humans and their belongings. Compared to natural foods that bears eat in the wilds, human foods and garbage have a tremendous amount of calories, fat, and nutrients.
Any odorous substance can attract bears, including garbage and refuse, cooking oil, dirty dishes, and toiletries. It is important to prevent bears from associating any such odors with people.
Violators could be fined up to $5,000 or up to six months in prison. Visit the White River National Forest online to get more information on national forest lands camping and addresses and telephone numbers for local ranger stations.
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