Black Bear habituated to human food on the Loop Road euthanized last month
(Lander, Wyo.) – Over the July 4th weekend at a campsite along the Loop Road in the Shoshone National Forest, a black bear pushed a woman from a grill and consumed some two pounds of bacon being cooked for breakfast. That bear was eventually located a few weeks later near Fiddler’s Lake and was euthanized because of that, and other similar instances.
“That bear had entered at least five or six other camps that we know of,” said large game biologist Brian DeBolt at the Lander Wyoming Game and Fish Division Office. “It was a young two-year-old female who was thin and in poor shape. This bear was very persistent in raiding camps and had obviously become habituated to human food.”
But that bear is not the only concern.
DeBolt said there are two other black bears in areas above Lander that are beginning to exhibit some of the same behaviors of the dispatched bear. “One bear unintentionally got human food by sneaking into a camp at night, it wasn’t as bold, but it gives us caution,” he said. “Those behaviors could escalate into conflicts between bears and humans and someone could get hurt.”
Nationally, black bear attacks have been on the rise, he said, and he noted many instances in the Bighorn Mountains where there have been “numerous, numerous” conflicts, including three bears entering the town of Dayton and one bear in the city of Sheridan.
“We have good natural food supply this year, but the bears are becoming more bold and visible,” he said.
Shoshone National Forest Washakie District Ranger Steve Schacht told the Fremont County Commissioners today that part of the problem is campers leaving food and coolers unattended. “There were over 100 incidences of people leaving food out on picnic tables or leaving coolers out during the July 4th weekend while the campers apparently went into town for the parade and such,” he said. “People need to properly secure their food inside their campers, clean up their trash and put out their campfires.”
While in effect this year, a new food storage order on the Washakie Ranger District is not being enforced. But that will change next year, Schacht said. “We’re doing education this year, but we’ll start writing tickets next year when we find violations. Don’t just push your cooler under a camper or camp trailer, lock it up inside.”
“It is so important to store food properly,” DeBolt said. “Someone who leaves a messy camp or leaves food out might not be impacted, but the next family using that campsite will be. The slobs before created the problem so the bears come again looking for food.”