A press release from Grand Teton National Park slipped quietly into my in-box this morning, informing me that a 6-year-old female black bear had been put down because it had become habituated to human food. While the release gave a pretty good history of the bear's short life, it never mentioned how many tickets have been written to park visitors and employees for making food available to bears in the park.
There is plenty of literature in parks such as Grand Teton, Yosemite, Sequoia, Yellowstone and Great Smoky Mountains, just to name five, about bears and the dangers of leaving food that they can get into. So you'd think rangers would focus on writing citations, not warnings, when they encounter poorly stored food.
And, sadly, more than a few visitors and even those who work in the parks are guilty of contributing to the deaths of bears that have to be put down. It was little more than a year ago when another black bear had to be euthanized in Grand Teton. I posted about it then, making an effort to point out the incredibly poor efforts being made by Grand Teton Lodge Company employees to keep the Colter Bay area "bear clean."
And some years ago during a trip to the Northwest that took me through the Carbon River entrance to Mount Rainier and a night in a campground there, I was dismayed to see folks in an RV store their garbage under their rig's steps.
Now we have today's news about the 6-year-old bear being put down on Wednesday.
According to Grand Teton officials, during the past week the 200-pound bear "exhibited bold and persistent behavior toward campers and their food sources in the Colter Bay Campground. Repeated food rewards, habituation to people, and its increasingly bold behavior led park officials to make the difficult decision to remove this black bear from the population, thereby eliminating future threats to visitors’ safety."
"A concerted 'bear aware' campaign has also been in place to educate campers about the importance of proper food storage in bear country. Multiple posters, educational literature, and table cards alert campers and picnickers to their responsibilities while visiting bear country," the release adds. "Park rangers patrol the campgrounds to monitor food storage compliance, and to educate and/or cite people for food storage violations. Nonetheless, visitors have continued to violate food storage requirements; as a consequence, this bear became completely food-conditioned and eventually aggressive in her persistence to obtain food from people."
I have a call in to park officials to see if they tally the number of citations issued to those who don't properly store food. I think it could be a telling number. I'd also be curious to learn how many similar citations are issued in the other parks I mentioned.