Bear-Human Encounters Exploding: How Rangers Are Trying to Stop Them

The more people who visit the White River National Forest and other wilderness areas in Colorado, the greater the chances of encounters with bears, who seem increasingly unafraid of humans.

For these reasons, White River has released emergency orders for each of the last two summers requiring that visiting backpackers use food and garbage containers considered bear-resistant — and officials are reportedly thinking about leaving the rule in place for five years given the escalating number of incidents.

According to the Aspen Times, only a small number of bear-human encounters were reported during the years 2010 through 2013. But there were 23 in 2014 and nearly twice that many — 41 — this past summer.

The issue is said to be especially acute in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass area near Crater Lake, where camping was banned for parts of the past two summers due to the bear matter.

Two videos referenced in a report on the topic demonstrate the scope of the dilemma.

This clip shows that suspending food or garbage from ropes in an effort to keep it away from Maroon Bells-area bears is ineffective....

...while this footage captures images of a bear with no apparent fear of a ranger mere steps away.

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The situation is clearly frustrating to Forest Service personnel.

The report about the situation, penned by Lead Wilderness Ranger Andrew Larson, acknowledges that "a robust educational campaign, incremental emergency orders and other management responses have so far failed to stem the trend of increasing bear-human conflict" in the wilderness area.

With that in mind, extending the emergency order in regard to bear-proof containers is unlikely to solve the problem — but with luck, it will lower the odds of an encounter turning tragic.

Here's a look at one of the previous emergency orders.

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