Our campground may look like a city park, but we are smack dab in the middle of bear country. The Caribou/Targhee National Forest is home to both Black bears and Grizzly Bears. I use the word home quite literally. We are the visitors, and as such it is our responsibility to ensure that their habitat remains the way nature intended.
What does this mean to us as campground hosts? The National Forest has a very strict Required Food Storage Order. The order “is intended to reduce adverse human-grizzly bear interactions, thereby promoting human safety and the protection of bears…”
The order requires that any unattended food, refuse, and attractants be stored inside hard-sided vehicles, in bear-resistant containers, or hung above the ground out of reach of bears. The list of “attractants” may surprise you. Bears are attracted to food, of course, but they also like deodorant, toothpaste, cosmetics and lotions. Another surprise – coolers are not bear resistant.
Bears canvass their area searching for food. Sometimes they run across a campground. If they don’t find food, they move on. Unfortunately, once a bear finds easy food in a campground, he tends to keep returning. Once this happens, the Forest Service can attempt to relocate the bear, but more often than not they end up killing the bear. It’s true – a fed bear is a dead bear.
We are required to enforce compliance with the Required Food Storage Order. We do this to protect our campers. And we do this to protect the bears. Grizzly bears are protected in the lower 48 states. Killing a grizzly bear in the lower 48 is both a federal and a state offense that can bring criminal and civil penalties of up to $50,000 and a year in jail.
Here at Warm River we have places to store food for tent campers who have no hard-sided vehicle. We also have bear-resistant dumpsters. The bins are secured by a clasp through a ring – much too small for a bear to open.