Monday, July 9, 2012

Active Bears and Current Fire Restrictions

BREAKING NEWS: The bears in the King Range are active and hungry. This past week we have had numerous bear incidences involving food.

In one case it was reported that a bear came into a camp while the occupants were awake and was able to obtain some amount of food because the canisters were not fully secured. In another case this past week a camper put his canister inside of his backpack and hung it in a tree – the backpack was damaged in the bears attempt to reach the food. It’s safe to store your items just inside of your backpack while you are actively using them – during the day as you are traveling. However, when you reach camp or are away from your items for any amount of time you need to securely store them in your canister.

Today I’m talking with a fellow hiker, Mike, who has some questions and comments regarding bears and proper food storage here in the King Range.

What kind of items need to be stored in the canister? A bear can’t smell my freeze dried food, right?

You need to store all of your food and scented items in the bear canister. This includes cans and freeze dried foods as well as your toiletries such as toothpaste and sunscreen. Your trash still carries scent so put that back in the can too (the cans we rent come with a small trash bag). Hanging your food is not an option in the King Range and on the Lost Coast Trail.

Bears have an extremely heightened sense of smell. According to the American Black Bear Association:

There is perhaps no other animal with a keener sense of smell. Bears rely on their sense of smell to locate mates, detect and avoid danger in the form of other bears and humans, identify cubs, and FIND FOOD. Although the region of the brain devoted to the sense of smell is average in size, the area of nasal mucous membrane in a bear's head is one hundred times larger than in a human's. This gives a bear a sense of smell that is 7 times greater than a bloodhound's.

I mean, I don’t mind if I lose some food to a bear. Besides, I can just cut my trip early…

The bear can is for protecting the bear from your food not for protecting your food from the bear. You will notice on top of the Garcia Backpackers’ Cache it says, “Save the bears” (it does not say, “Save your food”). So, what does this mean? When a bear starts to eat human food and learns that humans can be associated with an easy meal they will lose their fear of humans, come around campsites more often, and become increasingly aggressive. This is what you would call a “habituated” or “food conditioned” bear and they could eventually need to be put down if the aggression gets out of hand.


Let me rephrase that,


Where can I get a bear can?

We rent out the Garcia bear can here at the BLM Project Office in Whitethorn for $5 for your entire journey. You will need a credit card and a drivers licensed (if you don’t return the bear can you will buy it). We are open Monday-Friday 8-4:30. If your trip ends after our closing hours you can drop your can off in the afterhours bear can return box next to our building. Keep in mind that our front gate will be closed but you can still walk in.

You can also rent from the BLM Field Office in Arcata which has the same hours as the Project office here in Whitethorn: Monday-Friday 8-4:30.

You can also rent from:

Shelter Cove General Store
7272 Shelter Cove Rd. Whitethorn

Petrolia General Store

HSU Center Activities

Additionally, we will be going into full campfire restrictions in the King Range starting July 1st. The news release reads:

Effective July 1, the Bureau of Land Management is implementing fire restrictions for lands managed by the Arcata Field Office in Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity and Mendocino counties.  The restrictions will remain in effect until further notice.
                Field Office Manager Lynda Roush said the restrictions are needed because of dry fuels and increasing fire danger in the North Coast region.  She said wildfires under these conditions can pose threats to public land visitors, natural resources and adjacent private lands and communities.
                Under the restrictions, all campfires and barbecues are prohibited except in specifically posted campgrounds and recreation sites.  Portable stoves and lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel are allowed outside of posted recreation sites, with a valid California campfire permit.  The public is asked to be extremely careful with their use and to carry a shovel and water at all times.

So, please refrain from having a campfire in the King Range due to the extremely dry conditions. Also, please be very careful with your portable stoves. Last year we had over 400 acres burn near Spanish Flat due to a portable stove catching the grass on fire.

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