From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 22 - August 29, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Burned garbage a bear attractant

by Cat Urbigkit

A press release issued by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WG&F) Tuesday noted: "After a relatively quiet summer, bear activity in the Jackson area is beginning to pick up. WG&F personnel are currently dealing with a nuisance female grizzly and her three yearling cubs in the northern Jackson region. The bears are visiting campsites and digging up remains of partially burned trash in fire pits.

The press release continued with the following statement: "This situation is a perfect example of why people should not burn their trash when camping. The trash never completely burns and it then becomes an attractant for a bear. Everyone camping in bear country should plan to haul all trash and leftover food out with them. Burning trash just does not work."

But in early June when the Examiner presented photographs showing WG&F had been burning garbage at their Goosewing facility in the Upper Gros Ventre River area, in addition to having a pile of deal elk carcasses on location, the agency had a different reaction.

When shown the photographs of the carcasses in June, WG&G Regional Wildlife Supervisor Bernie Holz said, "I wouldn't think that's a bear attractant as it is," and said to his knowledge, all that's left of the carcasses is just some hide and bones.

As for the overturned and spilled garbage cans also photographed at the scene, Holz said, "That's stuff that all gets hauled off."

But rancher Dan Ingalls, who took the photographs, said bears had obviously been into the cans, as evidenced by the chewed food wrappers, tin cans and both burned and unburned garbage, and the barrels themselves had been bent. Ingalls accused the agency of having a double standard, urging that the U.S. Forest Service issue a food-storage order to place constraints on visitors to bear country, but not practicing what it preaches by keeping its garbage picked up or using bear-resistant containers.

WG&F Commissioners and director Tom Thorne resolved that such problems wouldn't occur in the future.

Tuesday's press release continued with a quote from WG&F's Bill Long: "Unfortunately, this female is now getting food rewards for visiting campsites and teaching this behavior to her cubs. People also need to read and follow food storage regulations for the national forest or wilderness area that they are visiting."

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