Rangers hope modified Dumpsters deter bears
Installing special Dumpsters in the Uinta Mountains helps reduce confrontations between bears and humans, officials say.
Some biologists claim a bear’s sense of smell is better than a dog’s, so modified trash containers stop bears from accessing garbage at campsites. Rangers installed the Dumpsters this year at campgrounds on the South Slope of the Uintas.
Even crumbs or grease in a fire pit attract bears.
Basic Dumpsters, with vinyl lids, are light and easy to open for hungry bears looking for leftovers, U.S. Forest Service rangers say.
"Once they figured out where the food was, the bears would first try to reach into the Dumpster. But when that failed the bears learned to jump on the Dumpsters and collapse the vinyl tops," Forest Service recreation officer Kim Bartell explained in a prepared statement. "The modified Dumpsters should make that almost impossible with new steel tops, heavy bar and hinge supports and bear-proof latches."
The newer Dumpsters, however, are just part of the solution. A black bear in Utah killed a boy in American Fork Canyon last summer.
Several bears were spotted in Summit County last year, said Dave Swenson, a Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officer in Park City.
"We need to get the word out to campers to keep a clean camp and keep food separate from sleeping areas," Swenson said.
People living in mountain communities should leave their garbage cans in the garage, he said.
"Don’t leave it out all week," Swenson said. "That’s just an open invitation, and once a bear gets a taste for it, that’s an easy meal."
So far, Swenson has no reports of bear sightings in western Summit County this year.
People can avoid confrontations with bears by not leaving food out or scattering litter, soap or toothpaste around campsites, according to Kevin Bunnell, mammals program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
"And by following these rules, you’ll be helping other people too," Bunnell said in a press release. "A bear may not visit the area while you’re there, but the food you leave out and the litter you leave behind could bring a bear to that same area after you leave. And that could create a serious problem for people who camp in the area after you."
Most containers, including plastic coolers, are not bear proof, he stressed, adding that bear-proof containers are available at sporting-goods stores.
After meals, immediately clean grills and anything used to prepare or eat food, he said.
Don’t sleep in clothes worn while cooking or cleaning fish. Leave those clothes, utensils and rags sealed inside a vehicle.
More tips on how to stay safe in bear country are at wildlife.utah.gov/bearsafety.
Reduce bear confrontations:
Do not leave food, garbage or other attractants like soap or toothpaste scattered around campsites; Food that isn’t being prepared or eaten should be stored inside a vehicle, or hung between two trees out of reach of bears and away from campsites; Never store food in a tent or in the area where you are sleeping; Never feed a bear
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