RMNP is home to 24 black bears. Five of those 24 will die this year. Their demise is not due to natural causes, rather human stupidity. While obtaining our backcounty permit last weekend, the BCO officer alerted us to the bears on the chopping block. It seems the park has had trouble this year with inconsiderate visitors, and the bears are feeling those consequences with a large dose of euthanasia.
I’ve thought about this issue since Sunday. The more I roll it around in my mind, the more frustrated I become. The park is great about alerting visitors to all the dangers that one could encounter in the backcountry. Not only does the park make visitors aware of those dangers, it does a fantastic job letting visitors know how to avoid trouble. Nowhere is the park’s diligence on better display than the bear warnings.
Bears are curious, smart and hungry animals. Their sense of smell is unparallaled. So yes they can smell that ham sandwich in your cooler. Not only does their nose alert them to scrumptious treats you think are hidden, the container itself lets the bear know goodies are inside. Due to the increasing amount of people thinking coolers are safe bear storage, bears now associate coolers with reward – delicious people food. Bears that have encountered food at campgrounds, now associate campers with food – a dangerous association. Bear run-ins, especially in RMNP, can be prevented if people would just get a clue. When the park demands proper bear storage containers, they mean it. The signs – YES THEY APPLY TO YOU! I know people like to think that they are exempt from signage rules, but you are not. That includes, not approaching OR feeding wildlife, using proper bear storage containers, staying off the tundra and stopping along Trail Ridge Road! All of these rules I see broken everytime I work at or visit the park.
People like to think of the national parks as belonging to them. Indeed these parks are for the people, but first and foremost these parks are home to all sorts of flora and fauna. We should respect these animal and plant’s home. Certain rules apply in RMNP, just as they would in someone’s house. Don’t ignore those rules, instead follow them and potentially save a bear, other plant or animal’s life.