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.

Written by Stephanie Mullins

11 Comments

e.m.b.

"…but first and foremost these parks are home to all sorts of flora and fauna." Yes! Mid-August, I was up camping by Ouzel Lake. Had a bear canister…and saw 3 different bears. It was obvious that some people hadn't been using canisters, and the bears had gotten used to people/campsites as food sources. Great post. Great reminder.

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HighPlainsFlyFisher

Very true words indeed and I second your thoughts. When the wife and I were in Yosemite last year we saw the same situation. For some reason people seem to forget that these are still wild animals when they're in a National Park like setting. It's a shame that such a beautiful and intelligent animal has to suffer because of our human ignorance or stupidity.

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Jay

I couldn't agree more. I've seen park rangers in GSMNP taking notes on bears that seem to have no fear of people, and I've wondered if they were just adding them to the euthanasia list. The GSMNP used to sell (maybe still do) bumper stickers in the gift shops that read "GARBAGE KILLS BEARS" in an effort to raise awareness about proper trash disposal. I had one of those stickers on my truck for years. For the bears, it's a matter of life and death if they don't "play by the rules." Sometimes I really wish people were faced with the same dilemna.

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Cofisher

Great post Stephanie. Unfortunately you are preaching to the choir on this. It's the idiots who apparently can't read for follow simple directions that need this. Too bad that the last supper a euthanized bear gets is the stupid person who is now responsible for his death and the bears.

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Wolfy

The reason is simple – the Parks allow idiots to enter them. In this age of "rules / signs / laws / … don't apply to ME" many people have no respect for any form of authority. I've seen these morons approach bull moose on the Col. River side to within about 25 yards before the moose start swaying their antlers back and forth, obviously PO'd at the idiots. Secretly, I was hoping for a charge and, while not wishing to see the people maimed, I woud have liked to have seen their tripod and camera get smashed.

But that's just me.

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Fly Waters Edge - Kevin

Truer words! It's not the wild things that cause the problem. Way to many individuals have little to no respect for out enviroment. It's why I pick up thier cans and trash all the time. Watch blind drunked idiots float down rivers and my personal favorite gasoline still makes a great fire started. It's why the bears don't have much of a chance. There should be an out doors test and if you fail… you have to stay home… where's the ap for that?

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Fontinalis Rising

I just spent a week in bear country- our precautions consisted of storing our food in the car. I guess it worked, but I know it doesn't in some parks. It's a shame when bears have to be put down unnecessarily. Hopefully your words will help, though sometimes it seems we're just preaching to the choir.

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e.m.b.

"Campaigns to bear-proof all garbage containers in wild areas have been difficult because, as one biologist put it, 'There is considerable overlap between the intelligence levels of the smartest bears and the dumbest tourists.'" – Richard Wabrek

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Jayden

It is sad that these endangered species are just being killed by irresponsible people. Camping is supposedly a fun activity and it should not include harming animals. There are a lot other great places to camp in, and if this could not be avoided, we should stop camping in the bear country. kershaw knives

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