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Food storage mandate in Superior National Forest due to high number of black bear sightings, incidents

Visitors to the forest and BWCAW will be required to 'properly' store their food.

An influx of visitors combined with a lack of berries due to drought has led to more human-bear incidents in the Superior National Forest — so officials are instituting a new food storage mandate.

As of July 30, anyone who goes to Superior National Forest, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, will be required to "properly" store their food. This means utilizing one of two storage methods:

  1. A bear-resistant food container, placed at least 50 feet from the campground
  2. A tree-and-pulley system that suspends a pack containing food 12 feet in the air and 6 feet away from the tree's trunk

Here's a graphic from the U.S. Forest Service to help explain:

There are a couple of other pulley system options here. Food doesn't need to be properly stored if it is in the process of being eaten, prepared or transported, the agency says.

A previously announced campfire ban for the forest and Boundary Waters also remains in effect.

The goal of this food storage order is to reduce the opportunity for black bears and humans to cross paths by removing a nutrition temptation. 

Related: Bear becomes armed after stealing camper's gun in Boundary Waters

“This is bear-country, people are going to see black bears. They live here," said Wildlife Biologist Cheron Ferland in the Forest Service's announcement. "That’s not concerning to me, but bears at dumpsters, lingering at campsites and stealing packs is. Once they get a reward, or food, they will keep doing whatever it takes to get that reward again."

This year's ongoing drought has led to poor crops of berries — a main summertime source of sustenance for bears. So the animals have been forced to scrounge for food elsewhere.

The Forest Service says it has received reports of bears visiting individual campsites, digging in dumpsters at campgrounds or other facilities, and stealing backpacks. If a bear becomes a "nuisance" and keeps approaching human sites, it will be "dispatched," meaning killed.

“We don’t want it to get to that point, and we want to limit the number of bears that are considered a nuisance. That’s what this food storage order is all about — taking proactive steps,” Ferland said.

Related: Property owner complains about black bear, but refuses to take down bird feeders

Forest sites with seen reoccurring bear incidents include:

  • Rose Lake, Duncan Lake and Daniel Lake on the Gunflint Ranger District
  • The Moose Lake Chain
  • Several campgrounds including Birch Lake, Fall Lake and Fenske Lake on the Kawishiwi Ranger District
  • Agnes Lake on the La Croix District. 

The Forest Service is also reminding campers and visitors that the onus is on everyone to behave responsibly.

"It is up to everyone to do their part to help prevent bears from becoming habituated and subsequently a nuisance or dangerous," the Forest Service says.

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