The other week, following four great days paddling about Shoshone and Lewis lakes in Yellowstone National Park, me and a buddy checked into a log cabin at the Colter Bay complex in Grand Teton National Park.
It was about four in the afternoon when I backed my trusty Subaru Outback into the parking space in front of the cabin...and right over a couple bags of trash the cleaning crew from the Grand Teton Lodge Company had removed from the cabin and dumped on the ground for later pickup.
As I looked up and down the row of cabins, I noticed more bags of trash in front of many of the cabins. This was odd, I thought, as the Colter Bay area is often frequented by bears, and this dumping of trash was like scattering bread crumbs for pigeons or chumming for sharks.
Well, sadly today I learned that park rangers had to put down a 5-year-old male black bear because it had become used to finding food in the Colter Bay area.
How long the trash bags had been in front of the cabin I have no idea. But they shouldn't have been there at all. "We definitely don't want that going on," park spokeswoman Joan Anzelmo told me today.
In the park's news release about the bear being euthanized, officials noted that the male and a 3-year-old female companion had been obtaining food and garbage "from park visitors." Perhaps the concessionaire should have been added to that list.
"Due to the repeated food rewards, habituation to people, and increasingly bold behavior exhibited by the male bear, park officials made the difficult decision to remove it from the population, eliminating potential threats to visitors," the park's release said, adding that, "Human carelessness doesn't just endanger people, it can also result in a bear's death. Once a bear acquires human food, it often loses its fear of people and can become habituated and sometimes dangerous."
There's a saying that there are no bad dogs, just bad dog owners. In the national parks, often there are no bad bears until negligent tourists arrive.
There's a reason parks such as Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Sequoia make bear boxes and bear-proof garbage cans available to tourists. Concessionaires should be held to the same standard as tourists.
And the Grand Teton Lodge Company isn't alone in overlooking -- at least one time -- how garbage should be handled in bear habitat. A couple of years ago I stayed in Yosemite's Curry Village, which is operated by Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts, and awoke to find garbage cans overflowing with trash.