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254 Bear Proof Campsites 2010-07-14

messy site

While camping at Longs Peak Campground we noticed a sign in the campground that asked, "Have you bear proofed your campsite?" To bear proof a site is to properly store all food, drink, utensils, cooking appliances, odorous products and to keep a neat campsite.

One morning as we left for a hike we drove by site #24. The site adjacent to the "bear proof" sign. Whoa (we are in Colorado, cowboy.) We backed up. The site, which was occupied by four young men was a disaster. No, a bear had not attacked the site, the guys had just left a mess overnight. There was food in the fire ring. There was food on the ground around the fire ring. There was food still in the pans sitting on the table. There was food and dirty dishes everywhere. Yogi would have thought that he had found a very large "pic-a-nic basket today."

In disbelief, we took pictures of the site. I don't know that I have ever seen such a blatant disregard of the rules. Honestly, we were absolutely shocked.

We reported the incident to Park authorities. The guys were not at the campsite when we returned that afternoon. We hoped that a Ranger came to their site to talk to them. They needed a lesson in campsite etiquette, not to scold them; but to help teach them the importance of their actions.

Bear proofing a campsite is serious. The action helps keep the bears wild. Feeding animals, whether it is a chipmunk, bird, or bear - changes the animal's feeding and harvesting behaviors. The smaller animals might just become beggars - animals dependant on human food; but bears are powerful enough to become nuisances. They do not need to beg for food, they find the food and try to take it. The bear then is found and either moved to a remote location (to try to re-educate it) or, most sadly, it is euthanized.

The bear is just doing what comes naturally, looking for food. When humans living in bear country give the bear the opportunity to forage for human food, it is the bear who gets in trouble. No one likes a bear stealing their food. They just become a big (and dangerous) thief, willing to take any food. As Yogi says, they are just looking for a "pic-a-nic basket today."

Help keep bears wild by always practicing good bear proofing procedures. The bear's life depends on it.

Happy bear proofing trails.


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