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[pct-l] bear manners

   Egos, statistics, and legalities aside, perhaps the main issue in
deciding how to handle edibles in bear country should be an examination
of what the Bear Problem means  - and how to avoid making it worse. All
bear-experts agree that human-food habituation is the #1 reason for the
increasingly-aggressive behavior of bears towards people today. A few
years ago, that behavior meant the occasional loss of a camper's dinner;
today there is automobile vandalism and occasional "swipings" from bears
seeking food; soon, there will likely be cases of inadvertant maulings,
and possibly farther down the line, outright predation. Many backcountry
visitors are quite fearful of the idea of a bear in the vicinity of their
camp, yet seem oddly complacent about their "right" to allow bears to
become habituated by casual food practices.
    So-called "stealth" camping is not a new (or Jardine) invention.
Years ago  ALL camping met the stealth definition. Food storage was
haphazard because a "problem" was not envisioned; bears then easily
tasted human food and gradually overcame their natural wariness of humans
and - a Problem was born. All living things learn by reinforcement; bears
continue to seek out human food because they are often rewarded in their
    Hanging edibles especially by extreme counterbalance methods might
have been a solution, but again, human carelessness in not following
scrupulous procedures taught bears that the effort of gathering human
food in trees was worthwhile. Some bears have learned that humans will
often toss food at them when they approach closely or exhibit
aggressive-looking behaviors; or that humans will relinquish food to a
bear in other ways (moving away from a food-laden picnic table when a
bear ambles near, for instance). Many bears now associate backpacks and
other gear, campsites (from dispersing or burying garbage), and
automobiles with the food-reward - even if no actual food is present.
None of this human-specific behavior is "natural" (tho the food quest
certainly is); it is all taught (reinforced) by human acts.  A  bear who
rushes a camper expecting a snack is merely a Shy Woodland Creature with
a college education <G>. By relaxing our guard outside known "problem
areas" like National Parks, we will merely make it easier for all bears
to learn Problem behavior.
    There is a sure solution to this mess. No human should  make it
possible for a bear to taste human food - ever, ever. Being "lucky so
far" isn't good enough, nor is "almost never". Nor is being able to chase
a bear away from an about-to-be-devoured meal (which is risky for other
reasons, of course), or not personally knowing anybody who fed a bear
     Bear canisters, properly used, seem to work now. So does keeping all
edibles on (not "near") your person all all times - which is the "24-hour
guard above timberline" the FS permit refers to. Properly-executed
couterbalance hanging works in places where bears are not habituated. Any
"method" that relys on luck or statistics is merely a gamble you take
with the lives of the bears and of other campers. An excuse ("canisters
are heavy/$$$" "there wasn't a good tree" "I was too tired to walk
out/guard the food" "I only left it for a minute") is INexcuseable. Not
having seen a bear (or "bear sign") means nothing, as do uniformed
notions of Typical Bear Behavior (bears don't climb, go above timberline,
run downhill, etc). The likelihood of being caught (or cited or taken all
the way to a courtroom) is irrelevant and has no place in the moral
equation - nor does your personal problem with Authority in the form of
FS regulations. Neither does the reasoning that you are only going to be
in a particular bear area once, and the damage you do is therefore 
insignificant - that food sack you "didn't mind losing" could contribute
to the mauling of a child later on, by the bear you helped train.
    Everybody who contemplates backcountry travel places a premium on
preparedness; nobody seems to  head out on a weeklong winter
mountaineering trip with only minimal summer dayhiking gear, for
instance. Bear Country is a particular backcountry-situation: those
unwilling or unable to equip themselves properly should stay home or
visit a place more attuned to their abilities/attitudes.
     bj,       who doesn't want to have to have HER Freedom curtailed (in
the form of more fees/restrictions, requirements to lug a bear canister
on every backpack, scars from bear claws/teeth, etc) to protect somebody
else's Right To Be Ignorant (or a slob)(or an "outlaw'), grrrrrrrrr.

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