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More bear sightings follow problem bear closure in Teton Canyon

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DRIGGS — In the more than three weeks since two bears were trapped in Teton Canyon, and one euthanized, campers and hikers’ compliance with “bear-aware” practices has been about average. That’s according to the local Teton Basin Ranger District.

At least three bears, one near the Reunion Flats campground and two near the Treasure Mountain Boy Scout Camp, have been seen during the daytime.

Ranger Jay Pence said that some people are continuing to leave out food and other bear attractants.

He said one of the common mistakes he has seen lately is people leaving unsecured coolers either in the bed of a truck or underneath a car, in order to keep the food out of the hot interior. The bear that recently had to be put down had become used to human food and had shown increasingly aggressive behavior.

Those coolers, Pence said, are easy pickings for bears.

“That’s one of the more significant violations we’re seeing,” Pence said.

He said one of the big exceptions is the Treasure Mountain Boy Scout Camp. In the past, the camp has had problems securing bear attractants like food and garbage. A problem bear forced the camp to close last summer. That animal was also trapped and euthanized.

However, Pence said, there has been a noticeable, positive, change at Treasure Mountain.

“It was the best visit we’ve ever had at the scout camp for compliance,” Pence said. “They are on it.”

The region’s housing shortage could also be playing a part in increasing human/bear conflicts, he said.

Pence said people are staying in the forest for extended periods of time to avoid paying rent in either the Wyoming or Idaho sides of Teton Valley. He said often these people don’t secure their food when they go to work, which leads to bears becoming habituated to human food.

Under Bridger-Teton National Forest rules, people cannot stay at a campsite for over 16 days. At the end of that time they have to move at least 5 miles away for at least a week before returning to the same campsite.

Pence said, many misinterpret the rule as meaning that they can stay in the forest for as long as they want as long as they move every 16 days. However, people’s total stay in the forest is capped at 32 days.

Pence said people are “residing” in the forest at a rate not seen in years.

“It’s at the levels we were dealing with pre-recession,” he said.

This article was originally published at Teton Valley News. It is used here with permission.

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