There is some bad news for campers heading out to Aspen, Colorado. According to an August 6 article in the Coloradoan, “The U.S. Forest Service has banned camping indefinitely at the gateway to the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness because of ongoing conflicts between humans and bears.”
At least 11 different sites will be turning away campers until further notice. The closures are in response to a mother bear and her cubs acting erratically — only after campers alarmed them, however, by banging pots and pans together and throwing rocks at the animals.
“The mother was starting to show signs of aggression,” Aspen-Sopris district ranger Karen Schroyer said. Other bears have been spotted as well.
More often than not, bears make an appearance on campsites looking for food. The U.S. Forest Service is currently taking measures to encourage the bears to hunt and forage in their natural habitats. The organization assures the general public and animal rights advocates that the methods used — methods like tasing — will all be non-lethal.
Closing the camps and taking steps to manage the bears is just another recent measure to make peace between wild bears and humans. On July 10, the White River National Forest issued an immediate order “requiring…hard-sided bear-resistant containers for backpackers throughout the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness,” the Aspen Times reports. Unfortunately, only about half to three-quarters of campers complied.
The campground closings in Aspen, Colorado are extreme. It is not necessarily uncommon for the 38 million Americans (as of 2012 — and counting!) to have at least a run-in or two with a bear while camping. These encounters, while they may be alarming, usually pass without incident.
To camp safely in bear country, experts recommend:
1. Stowing all consumables in a heavy-duty, bear-resistant cooler or hard-sided, bear-resistant container;
2. Avoid packing items that have a pungent scent (toiletries, perfumes, lotions, etc.);
3. Make noise while hiking and camping. This will naturally discourage bears from wandering onto the path or onto campgrounds.
“Coolers like ours are bear tested and have to be able to keep a big bear from getting to the food reward for at least one hour,” says Paul Kabalin, President, Engel Coolers. “Using bear resistant coolers saves lives – by not rewarding the bears for their efforts. Sadly bears remember quickly and if successful they will target campers and coolers until they are either removed or euthanized.”