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