One of the most comforting things you can find in your national park campground that lies within bear country is a metal box into which you can store your foodstuffs and cooking gear when you're not using it. And recent work in Grand Teton National Park means there's going to be quite a few more comfortable campers enjoying the park.
While bear poles and wires are nice, they can't match the ease of opening a door on a bear box, placing your goodies inside, and shutting the box securely. No need to toss a rope over a tree limb or bear bar and then hoist your things high off the country.
Thanks to fees collected from park concessionaires and aid from the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, crews at Grand Teton recently installed 52 bear boxes in campgrounds at the Flagg Ranch, Lizard Creek, Colter Bay and Signal Mountain campgrounds. Those additions bring to 208 the number of boxes that have been installed at campgrounds and picnic areas located throughout the park, according to park officials.
In an effort to help reduce human-bear conflicts, the non-profit Grand Teton National Park Foundation began a campaign in 2008 to secure money for the purchase of food storage boxes. In addition, the Grand Teton Lodge Company supplied further funding in 2008 through a campground improvement program required under its concessions contract. Other funding was supplied by the National Park Service through concessionaire franchise fees, according to a park release.
More than 3.5 million visitors come to Grand Teton each year -- most during the summer months -- and thousands of them picnic or stay overnight at one of the park’s 1,230 campsites. And park officials say rangers document almost daily violations of food storage regulations by careless or uninformed visitors during the course of the tourist season.
While overall compliance with food storage regulations is high, it only takes one incident of a bear obtaining food for it to get “human food-conditioned” and become a potential nuisance bear, park officials note. As a result, for public safety reasons it often becomes necessary to euthanize food-conditioned bears.
Despite the recent box placements, park officials say that nearly 75 percent of Grand Teton's front country campsites lack these vital food storage containers. The park has identified approximately 800 front country sites that are suitable for the placement of bear-resistant food storage boxes. By being widely available for visitors to use, these boxes can prevent bears from becoming food-conditioned and better ensure that they remain wild, naturally foraging animals.
Bear-resistant food storage boxes cost approximately $1,100 each. Grand Teton National Park Foundation donors so far have provided funding for 94 boxes since their bear box campaign began in 2008. With a goal of providing 1,000 boxes for the park's front-country campgrounds and picnic areas, the foundation has a way to go. You can help out by donating to the foundation's bear box campaign. If you give the full $1,100 for one box, they'll place an engraved plaque on the box.
"It's a good way to give a really unique gift to somebody who's interested in wildlife," said the foundation's Kim Mills.
For further information about the bear box campaign, visit this page.