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RAW: Drought conditions means bears are hungry—don't feed them, forest service urges

August 8, 2012

The Eastern Sierra region of California, along with much of the western United States, is suffering from serious drought conditions. As a result of the lack of water and moisture, plants and shrubs are less productive and local wildlife are finding a shortage of natural forage and food.

The black bear populations of the Sierra Nevada rely upon plants and shrubs to survive. A shortage of native food sources for these animals is forcing bears to seek alternative food sources, including human food and trash.

The US Forest Service is asking that all forest users give careful consideration to how they are storing their food and trash. Food storage lockers, often referred to as bear boxes, are in place in campgrounds and trailheads where there are known bear issues. All food and items with scent (such as toothpaste, shampoo, etc.) should be placed in these storage containers when not in use, and the doors securely locked. Campers and picnickers should NEVER leave their food unattended, even for a minute. If you must walk away from your picnic table or cooler, Forest Service regulation requires that you secure food before leaving.

All trash must be disposed of properly. Most locations in bear country have “bear proof” dumpsters that lock if used properly. When disposing of your trash in these dumpsters, please make sure the dumpster is locked and secure after you deposit your trash.

Backcountry and wilderness visitors must store their food properly. In some areas, bear canisters or storage devices are required. Counter balancing food in trees is not 100% effective and the use of food storage devices is encouraged throughout the backcountry and wilderness.

In addition to being subject to fines, allowing bears to obtain human food can be fatal for an animal. Bears can become habituated to human food and can become aggressive in their pursuit of food. A habituated bear may become a human safety concern and have to be destroyed. Please do not make the mistake of feeding the bears and contributing to their potential destruction.

The Forest Service is asking the public to help keep the wildlife wild. Do not feed bears. Always know where your food is and ensure that it is safely locked when you are not immediately near it.

For more information, please call or visit any Forest Service visitor center or Ranger Station, including the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center in Lee Vining (760-647-3044), the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center (760-924-5500), the White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop (760-873-2500) or the InterAgency Visitor Center in Lone Pine (760-876-6222.)

Source: Inyo National Forest

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