Food Storage Required on the Shoshone and portions of the Bridger-Teton National Forests
Minimizing conflicts between people and bears is the focus of a revised food storage order which expands requirements for storing food on portions of the Bridger-Teton National Forest and for the entire Shoshone National Forest. These changes took effect this month.
The new order, which will replace an existing order that was implemented in 2004, was signed on June 14, 2016 by Forest Supervisors Tricia O’Connor and Joe Alexander of the Bridger-Teton and Shoshone National Forests, respectively.
Based on a growing number of human-bear conflicts, the new order is aimed at promoting the safety of forest visitors by minimizing those incidents, which have increased in recent years due to the expansion of grizzly bears outside the grizzly bear recovery area and a growing number of conflicts with both black and grizzly bears across the region.
The order expands the area that requires food and other attractants be properly stored or hung so that they are not available to bears.
The new order will expand existing food storage requirements to cover the entire Shoshone National Forest. On the Bridger-Teton National Forest it expands the area to include the southern Wind River Range on the Pinedale Ranger District so that it includes all of the Blackrock, Jackson and Pinedale Ranger Districts, and the northern portion of the Big Piney Ranger District, including all of the Teton, Gros Ventre and Bridger Wilderness areas.
The new order does not cover the Wyoming and Salt River Ranges on the Greys River and Kemmerer Ranger Districts, or the southern portion of the Big Piney Ranger District.
Efforts to expand education on food storage requirements and the potential expansion of the order began in the fall of 2014, through meetings with the public, elected officials and others.
Food storage orders also are in place inside the grizzly bear recovery area on five other national forests and the two national parks in the Greater Yellowstone Area. The Pinedale District of the Bridger-Teton has had a voluntary sanitation/food storage program in place for nearly 20-years, recognizing the frequent black bear and human conflicts that have occurred in developed campgrounds and resort areas.
“This is a human health and safety issue,” said Shoshone National Forest Supervisor Joe Alexander. “We don’t want people getting hurt out there because bears are attracted to human foods.”
Since a critical component of food storage is helping people learn how to live and recreate safely in bear country, the initial focus of the new order will be on education, not on writing tickets for violations.
“Our goal has never been one of enforcement but rather a goal of sound education and forest user support,” said Tricia O’Connor, supervisor of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
“Both humans and bears are increasingly at risk in areas where they coexist and where food is available or improperly stored,” said O’Connor. “It often takes only one occurrence of a bear obtaining food from humans to become conditioned. Human food conditioned bears are very dangerous and continue to seek food from people.”
Although the food storage order has proven effective in minimizing human-bear encounters in the areas currently covered by the order, problems are arising outside those areas.
Information and educational efforts have proven effective where the food storage order has been in effect the past 25 years. These included a variety of brochures, news articles, signage, bear workshops, personal contacts, fireside talks and presentations to schools, community groups, professional organizations and others.
The forests have begun installing equipment in campgrounds and the backcountry including bear-resistant food storage boxes, garbage containers and hanging poles. This effort will continue in 2016 and future years. Bear-resistant equipment such as panniers and backpacker tubes also are available for loan from Forest Service district offices.