Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
Trip Planning Forum
Bear Vaults vs Bear Problems (and possible solutions)
Mocha: "Smart enough to know which end was supposed to come off.
The BearVault gets even more entertaining to open when the temperature gets below about 45 degrees. Pretty stout plastic, those things.
Mocha: "A solution is to train the humans not the bears.
Amen to that!
gkimball: "gkimball: "The goal is to keep bears from getting food from the campers.
No "might" about it, it is a black bear. The facial profile, claw length and lack of shoulder hump are determinative here.
Smart enough to know which end was supposed to come off.
If only adult humans could be entertained for hours with a food vault.
Well, I guess I’ve spent a bit of time trying to get mine open…??
Playful little fella
gkimball: "The goal is to keep bears from getting food from the campers.
That bear was spending all that time trying to open the bear vault while missing the fact that somebody close by was running a video camera...
gkimball: "The goal is to keep bears from getting food from the campers.
Might be a black bear, oh well, it still looks like a bear...right?
The goal is to keep bears from getting food from the campers.
Once the bear has succeeded in getting food they will likely try again. If people do not protect their food the bear may succeed, and keep doing it. If the bears do this often enough they become "problem" bears, even though the real problem is the people who don't protect their own food.
The most effective way to protect food in backcountry campsites is metal bear boxes with latches the bear can't open. That's not going to happen in the BWCA for many reasons.
The next most effective are the bear canisters, which is why places like Grand Teton National Park, home to many big strong GRIZ, will not allow anyone to camp in the backcountry using anything but bear canisters. Here is an example of why:
GRIZ enounters bear vault
This system works because bear canisters work, and the Park Service makes sure everyone who gets a backcountry camping permit agrees to use the canisters and informs them how to keep a clean camp. Compared to the efforts the Park Service apply to working with the human side of the problem, the Forest Service is very, very weak.
If bear canisters work in GRIZ country, they will surely work in the BWCA.
I was reviewing a Beymer guide I have from ‘91 for an upcoming trip. The permits for the entry point are all gone through august. Here are the stats from when the guide was published: “Only 16% of the quota for Portage Lake and 9% of the quota for Skipper Lake were used during the five month canoeing season in 1989” (p. 86). This was when the two lakes were separate ep’s, which is no longer the case. Even so, between the two places, only 25% of the available permits had been taken.
Whether it’s bear issues, trashed sites or fourteen canoes gathered on an island for lunch, there are too many people accessing it now, and that includes me. I believe that its ongoing preservation will require a multi-faceted approach: reduced group size, reduced permits, more stringent preparation requirements and enforcement, and permanent removal of perimeter copper-sulfide mining threats.
Mocha's right. Humans do a wonderful job of ruining things and not such a great job at fixing them. Even with the slam dunks we often can't get it together. I'll continue to come up & leave no trace. It does make me appreciate the trips of my youth in the late 70's & 80's even more. Times when you had the pick of the entire pristine place.
What Mocha just said!
A solution is to train the humans not the bears.
Humans have been encroaching on wildlife habitat for centuries and somehow it becomes the fault of the animal.
The reason few bears are shot in bwca us that it is a LOT of work to hunt, harvest and haul out a bear, can u imagine a deer or moose?
Eventually the slobs and/or uneducated will ruin the bwca for everyone . New and more stringent rules will be imposed by govt.
Bwca boot camp is needed across the country. Board members could host and share their wealth of knowledge and skills.
It would have to be free and also really expensive since people with money are usually suspicious of cheap or free ...
My two cents
I would like to know how many bear problems are in fact problems.
How many camps were raided by bears?
Were the bears success full? Did they actually get food?
Did they get chased away and stay away or and did they come back?
Did the bears stand their ground or leave when confronted?
Were the bears on or near the portage or camp but not actually in camp?
Were the reports only on the heavier used sites or were they scattered around to the more remote sites also?
Are the resorts, cottages and camp grounds also having a bear problem?
I worry that a bear sighting or a chance encounter with a bear is being turned into a "bear Problem" As has been mentioned countless times in the BWCA forum there are many new visitors to the BWCA who are not used to any type of wildlife encounter and may over react. I also worry that authorities who need to be seen as " taking the problem seriously" are making knee jerk decisions not based on facts. I worry that bear vaults, bear canisters, FS storage boxes and hanging are not the solution and we will be forced to bring steel safes complete with chains and padlocks to the BWCA.
I don't have a solution as such but more and better education, perhaps a face to face lecture by a ranger on the rules and the consequences of breaking those rules rather then just a video will help. Maybe we can talk Speilberg into making a film showing a bear mauling a guy leaving garbage at a campsite.
Metal boxes defeat bears and attract lazy slobs who leave trash in them. It’s relatively easy to deal with the latter when the USFS, NPS or one of their contractors can drive up alongside the box. It’s a huge PITA in the backcountry, so I doubt they will be installed in the BWCA.
GTNP reminds park goers not to put trash in bear boxes
There is a healthy bear population in the BWCAW that is essentially unmanaged. The number of bears shot by hunters during the last 5 bear seasons is; 2014 (5), 2015 (7), 2016 (5), 2017 (8), 2018 (4), 2019 (3). There have likely been some other "nuisance" bears that have been shot. Bear vaults are a very effective way of preventing bears from associating campers with food. I'm very confused by all the resistance about using them. Bears know where the campsites and portages are, and for the most part avoid those areas. A few bears chose to make a living by harassing campers.
On a recent Joe Rogan podcast the guest clay newcomb(big time bear hunter) spoke on the exploding bear population in the US. This has to be considered.
Any time a Bear's natural food supply is low, they wonder into areas they normally wouldn't to find food
Bears are conditioned (by success) to find food and they are conditioned (by success) to defeat human attempts to keep food (and smell alike's) from them. Hanging used to work as they very seldom came across a hung pack that they could defeat. But as more humans ventured into the wilderness and more became less accurate at hanging packs as proscribed, the bears figured out how to defeat the hangs. This became true even when they were hung as proscribed. Then there were blue barrels. Again, bears had not encountered these before and we were successful for a little while. But as more people carried them and bears learned that they carried food, they devised methods to defeat them and another storage method succumbed to the ingenuity of bears. I believe that the BV Bear Vaults will eventually come to the same fate. As more people carry them into the wilderness and more bears encounter them, 3-7 years from now we will discover that bear canisters will not protect your food absolutely either. Some people have suggested poles. These are problematic as they rely on rope/cables to hang food. Cables rust and ropes can be cut by bears.
The only "bear proof" method are the metal food storage boxes found at many national and state parks. A phased installation might look like: Start with those campsites within 0-1-2 portages from an entry. Those bears are most likely to be habituated not only by BW campsites but the human contact outside the BW. Then the perennial hot spots within the BW - e.g. Knife Lake, Moose/Agnes Lake, Polly Lake, etc. After that, installation could be informed by bear activity in specific locations as they occur. Some places may never get or need them. (e.g. Louse River, Frost River, etc.)
There are other "hot spots" where poles and cables may work as a short term (10-60 min) solution. E.g. portage ends.
For those that decry another intrusion on the "wilderness", the FS already does that with fire grates and thunder boxes. Why would this provision make that much more difference? Especially if it were to keep more bears and other creatures alive.
Bears are creatures of habit. They go back to where they have found food in the past. They find food by smelling it. Hence, the reason we should put toothpaste and other smellables in the bear canister along with our food and stash it a distance from our campsite.
Bear Vaults and other bear resistant food storage methods take away the food reward so bears are (eventually) less likely to visit camp sites. Bears may play soccer with the canister, but if used properly they won't get to the food. They'll give up after a while and move on. Don't hang a bear canister. That just gives the bear a way to carry the canister off into the woods. They still (probably) won't get fed. Neither will you.
I am going to guess the current resurgence of bear problems is related to the number of new campers who didn't store their food safely last year and this year. It's going to take time to break the bears' habits.
I realize their are other threads regarding food storage and bear activity. But I wanted to discuss this specifically in terms of Bear Vaults / Canisters.
So first I ask the question: What is/are the "bear problems" that need to be addressed?
We have to be able to answer this question in order to come up with any viable solutions.
The problem, in it's simplest form, appears to be that we have too many bears coming into or near campsites, creating dangerous interactions for the bears and the people.
Which leads me to the question: If everyone used approved Bear Vaults and canisters (as opposed to other containers) would less bears be attracted to campsites.
My thoughts....... I don't think it will have much of an impact. I have to ask the questions as to why would a bear attempt to get into a bear vault and how would a bear find one in the first place. After all, if the primary goal is to avoid contact with the bears, then we need to know if a Bear Vault is going to do that.
Is the next step to use Bear Vaults and canisters and put them inside something to hang them with?
I think the problem is all of the other activities we humans do in and around our campsites. I think we need to make sure not to get a false sense of "problem solved" just because we bought a Bear Vault, and make sure we stay focused on the entirety of what we do that attracts the bears.
I wonder how much it would cost, to start installing poles at campsites for hanging? Perhaps permit fees could be increased to pay for it?