Climbers fined $450 for camping at Crater Lake, not securing food |

Climbers fined $450 for camping at Crater Lake, not securing food

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Signs inform visitors at the Maroon Lake area that 11 campsites at Crater Lake are closed because of bear issues. The camping ban went into placed Aug. 5.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Two climbers were each fined $450 last week after they violated a camping closure at Crater Lake and didn’t secure their food in bear-resistant canisters, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Their alleged negligence allowed at least one bear to raid the camp while the climbers were out on the trail, according to Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer. The Forest Service acted after getting a tip.

“We got a report from hikers that there was at least one bear ripping up the campsite,” Schroyer said.

A backpacker was fined earlier this month for the same violation.

Despite those setbacks, conflicts between bruins and humans have declined in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness this month, Schroyer said. Camping at 11 sites at Crater Lake was banned indefinitely Aug. 5 after repeated reports of bears finding food at camps. A sow and a cub entered the campground numerous times in search of food, and the sow showed signs of aggression, according to officials.

Forest Service officials said they didn’t want to wait until a person was harmed to take action, so they closed the sites.

A special order approved earlier this summer requires backpackers throughout the vast wilderness area to use bear-resistant canisters for food, trash and other attractants. The order also applies to some dispersed camping areas, such as Lincoln Creek. Campers at Forest Service campgrounds must use lockers for food and bear-proof dumpsters for trash when available.

Wilderness rangers and other Forest Service employees are spot-checking for compliance on trails such as the popular Four Pass Loop. Compliance is “great right now” at about 90 percent, Schroyer said.

It is uncertain if the sow and cub were the bears that got into the climbers’ food at Crater Lake last week. The intent of removing human food sources there was that the bruins would rely on natural foods.

“We’re really hoping that the sow and her cub are gobbling up berries like crazy,” Schroyer said.

State wildlife officers didn’t make contact with any bears at Crater Lake to undertake “adverse conditioning” in the days immediately after the closure. Officers camped at a site near the lake for a couple of nights with the hope that bears that had been raiding the area would return. The officers planned to use Tasers to create a bad experience and train the bears not to return. The bears were a no show and the effort was suspended, Schroyer said.