Bear-Proof Food Canisters Mandatory for Most Backcountry Travel in Grand Teton National Park

Most backcountry travelers in Grand Teton National Park will now be expected to store their food in bear-proof plastic canisters.

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott says that beginning this Saturday, March 15, all backpackers camping below 10,000 feet in the park’s backcountry will be required to use approved, portable bear-proof canisters for food storage—except at certain designated backcountry campsites where food storage facilities are provided.

Although food canisters are not required for areas above 10,000 feet, proper food storage will still be compulsory in those locations. It doesn't sound as if rangers will allow you to use the Ursack or UrsaLite food storage systems.

The requirement is being implemented to prevent bears from learning to associate humans and their activities with easily-obtainable food. By reducing the potential for property damage—and/or injury to visitors from bears aggressively seeking human foods— park officials hope the mandate will increase visitor safety and reduce the number of adverse actions required to manage food-conditioned bears.

Approved bear-proof canisters will be loaned without charge at three park locations: the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, Jenny Lake Ranger Station, and Colter Bay Visitor Center. Backcountry campers may use their own canisters as long as they are approved units. The following are currently authorized for use: Backpacker Model 812-C, BearVault BV350 and BV400, The Bear Keg, and The Bare Boxer Contender. For additional information on bears and food storage canisters, please visit this site.

Currently, bear-proof canisters are mandatory in Alaska’s Glacier Bay and Katmai national parks, California’s Yosemite National Park, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management-managed King Range National Conservation Area in northwestern California.

Park Service officials say mandatory canister use has been found to be a key element in achieving a successful bear management program. The counter-balance method for storing food out of a bear’s reach does not always effectively keep bears from obtaining human foods, according to the agency. Also, many areas lack suitable trees for proper counterbalancing, and some bears have chewed through branches or otherwise acquired counterbalanced food.

Once bears discover human food, they frequently alter their wild behavior and foraging habits in order to continue getting those foods, according to the Park Service. As a result, management actions—including the destruction of bears—are often necessary.

Last summer many bear/human conflicts occurred in the Jackson Hole area. Some bears have already learned to associate humans with easily-obtainable foods, and they may continue their pursuit of those foods, setting the stage for further conflicts. Proper food storage at all park locations—front country and backcountry—will be critical in minimizing such encounters.

Comments

Bear-resistant food canisters are also required in most of Sequoia/Kings-Canyon National Park as well. In addition, large areas of wilderness on Forest Service land in the Sierra Nevada also require you to use such canisters.

We explored the history and effectiveness of bear cans in a two-part edition of the WildeBeat:
The Story of Bear Cans, part 1
The Story of Bear Cans, part 2
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The WildeBeat "The audio journal about getting into the wilderness"
10-minute weekly documentaries to help you appreciate our wild public lands.
A 501c3 non-profit project of Earth Island Institute.

This sounds like a good requirement. I'm glad to see that the canisters will be available for loan at no charge. I wonder if we'll eventually have to collect a deposit to make sure the canisters are returned. Will there be a workable plan to enforce this requirement? It wouldn't take too many rule-breakers to negate the benefits we can see from the institution of this regulation.

In the Sierra Nevada, they started out loaning them for free. Now you either have to rent them, or bring your own.

For standards and requirements in the Sierra Nevada, check out: http://www.sierrawildbear.gov/
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The WildeBeat "The audio journal about getting into the wilderness"
10-minute weekly documentaries to help you appreciate our wild public lands.
A 501c3 non-profit project of Earth Island Institute.

The problem with bear canisters is they do not hold much food. I could not fit five days of food in one. I would have to carry two or three on a ten day trip.

I typically fit 8 days of food, at about 3,000 calories per day, into mine. It all depends on what you choose to take.

There's some advice here: http://www.sierrawildbear.gov/foodstorage/packingabearcanister.htm

And there are larger canisters that are still lighter than the standard park-issued models.
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The WildeBeat "The audio journal about getting into the wilderness"
10-minute weekly documentaries to help you appreciate our wild public lands.
A 501c3 non-profit project of Earth Island Institute.