Bear issues force camping ban at Crater Lake near Aspen |

Bear issues force camping ban at Crater Lake near Aspen

A sign on the trail to Crater Lake warns backpackers last summer that camping is closed at the 11 sites near the lake because of ongoing bear conflicts.
Aspen Times file |

The U.S. Forest Service banned camping at Crater Lake, the gateway to the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, for an indefinite period Wednesday after ongoing conflicts between humans and bears.

The closure affects 11 sites, according to Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer. The White River National Forest Supervisor’s Office worked on an emergency order for the closure after encounters last weekend. It doesn’t affect day hikers or backpackers passing through the area. Crater Lake is about 1½ miles from Maroon Lake.

“This action keeps overnight visitors away from an area of potentially dangerous bear activity, prevents bears from further obtaining human food and garbage, and encourages bears to begin finding their natural food,” the Forest Service said in a statement.

Schroyer said wildlife officers from Colorado Parks and Wildlife will stage at Crater Lake this week to attempt “adverse conditioning” with the bears. They will use non-lethal methods such as using Tasers on the bears and shooting them with rubber buckshot and beanbags fired from shotguns.

The White River National Forest approved an emergency order on July 10 requiring the hard-sided bear-resistant containers for backpackers throughout the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Compliance has ranged from 50 to 75 percent, according to the agency, but the campers who don’t properly store their food are responsible for ongoing problems.

“Some visitors do not come prepared or are not using storage canisters correctly,” the Forest Service said in a statement. “As a result, emboldened bears in West Maroon Valley continue to become increasingly dangerous to visitors in search of human food and garbage, particularly at Crater Lake where bears have been awarded with human food and garbage regularly.”

The canisters should be stored at least 100 feet from a camp. They should not be hung in trees or other objects. The rope gives bears something to hold onto.

Bear resistant containers may be purchased online, at suppliers across North America, and at the following local outdoor stores: Aspen Expeditions and Four Mountain Sports at Aspen Highlands; Bristlecone Mountain Sports, Basalt; Factory Outdoors or Summit Canyon Mountaineering, Glenwood Springs; and Ute Mountaineer, Aspen; Ragged Mountain Sports, Carbondale.

For more about the camping ban, read Thursday’s Aspen Times.

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