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Superior National Forest Announces Food Storage Order to Protect Both Visitors and Bears

Jul 30, 2021 11:19AM ● By Editor

Forest Order will help bears stay wild and alive by requiring proper food storage 

Duluth, Minn., July 30, 2021 — Beginning on July 30, 2021, all visitors to the Superior National Forest, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) management area, will need to store their food properly to help protect wild bears and humans alike. This food storage order is the result of increases in human-bear interactions with negative outcomes.  

Superior National Forest Wildlife Biologist Cheron Ferland says the rise in interactions is the result of a number of factors. “We finalized a new bear action plan this year which calls for more systematic reporting, so we probably have more reports being submitted, but this by itself doesn’t account for the increase. It’s also because there are more visitors on the landscape and the fact that we are in an extreme drought, which has led to a poor berry crop,” said Ferland. 

This year, the Forest has asked the public and employees to report any and all bear interactions. The reports include bears at individual campsites, digging in dumpsters at campgrounds or other facilities, and stealing backpacks. Forest officials also point out that not all reports of interactions with bears are negative or a cause for alarm. Reports may also include general bear sightings to help biologists better understand bear travel patterns in the Forest. 

“This is bear-country, people are going to see black bears. They live here. That’s not concerning to me, but bears at dumpsters, lingering at campsites and stealing packs is. Once they get a reward, or food, they will keep doing whatever it takes to get that reward again,” Ferland said.  

If a bear becomes a nuisance and continues interacting with humans, the bear will be dispatched. “We don’t want it to get to that point, and we want to limit the number of bears that are considered a nuisance. That’s what this food storage order is all about – taking proactive steps,” said Ferland. 

This year, there are several areas with reoccurring bear sightings and interactions on the Forest. Areas include Rose Lake, Duncan Lake and Daniel Lake on the Gunflint Ranger District; the Moose Lake Chain and several campgrounds including Birch Lake, Fall Lake and Fenske Lake on the Kawishiwi Ranger District; and Agnes Lake on the La Croix District. 

The food storage order requires visitors to properly store food unless in the process of eating, preparing or transporting food (i.e. bringing fish caught in a nearby lake to a campsite or carrying food down to the beach for a picnic). Proper storage reduces the chance of bears being rewarded when in campsites, trails, portages, landings or other recreational areas. Proper food storage can be done in two ways:  

    1. Using a bear canister or bear-resistant container and placing it 50 feet away from your tent on the ground (preferred method) or;  
    2. Hanging your food pack at least 12 feet above the ground at all points, six feet horizontally from any pole or limb and four feet vertically from any pole or limb. Please be mindful of the weight of your pack while hanging it to avoid breaking branches and damaging live trees. 

In addition to proper food storage, there are other actions that visitors can take in bear-country that help keep bears wild, alive and healthy, including:  

    • Making sure anything with a scent is properly stored. This includes, but is not limited to, toothpaste, wrappers, lip balm, soap, petroleum products and lotion.  
    • Disposing of fish remains at least 200 feet from any campsite, portage, trail and shoreline.  
    • Packing out cooking grease; bears are attracted to the grease you leave behind in the firepit. For locations mentioned above, consider bringing foods that do not create grease. 
    • Packing out all food scraps, including fruit and vegetable remains. 
    • Packing only the food you need for your trip. The less potent the better.  
    • If dumpsters are full, take your garbage out with you; please don’t leave it outside of a secure container.  
    • Using bear spray.  

It is up to everyone to do their part to help prevent bears from becoming habituated and subsequently a nuisance or dangerous. Taking proactive bear aware measures can limit negative visitor experiences and potentially save a bear’s life. 

Last year the Forest implemented a food storage order for a limited number of lakes in the Wilderness on the Gunflint District. This year, the Forest is enacting a food storage order for the entire Forest. If you have questions about bear resistant food storage, please call the Ranger District closest to you or visit the Forest Service’s website. A copy of the forest order and this press release will be available on our website shortly.

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