Bear activity prompts campground food-storage rules | AspenTimes.com

Bear activity prompts campground food-storage rules

Staff report
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Increased bear activity has prompted new rules for food storage at campgrounds and other White River National Forest sites around Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.

A “food storage order” is now in effect at all developed recreation sites in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District as well as at the dispersed campsites located along Lincoln Creek Road and at the base of Pearl Pass in the Castle Creek Valley, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The rules are intended to protect both the public and wildlife.

“Human/bear interactions can be a rich experience and a source of conflict. This order is designed to keep folks safe while encountering the full experience of meeting nature in bear country,” Ranger Scott Snelson said in a prepared statement.

The order prohibits certain activities that attract bears to public-use areas. Visitors to the affected campsites must now store their food, cooking equipment, cooking utensils and coolers in a bear-resistant container such as a closed, locked vehicle or bear box. The boxes are provided at some campgrounds, including Difficult Campground just east of Aspen.

Any odorous substance can attract bears. That includes soap, toothpaste, cooking oil and dirty dishwater, the Forest Service noted. The goal is to prevent bears from associating such odors with people.

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“We’re hoping that this will help,” said Bill Kight, Forest Service spokesman. Local Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers have their hands full with bear calls these days, he said.

Violations of the food-storage restriction are punishable by a fine of as much as $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for no more than six months, or both, according to the Forest Service.