Citing increased run-ins between black bears and campers, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is proposing a new rule for food and trash storage. If approved, it could take effect as soon as next month.
The order, currently in draft form, would mirror bear-proofing rules common in grizzly country, like Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, SNRA Ranger Kirk Flannigan said. Food, trash and animal carcasses could be stored in a hardtop car, a building or a bear-proof container or strung up at least 10 feet off the ground any time a person isn’t within eyesight of it during the day or preparing it at night. Per the order, dead animals would also need to be stored at least 100 yards from any campsite, sleeping area or national forest trail.
If signed by Forest Supervisor Jim DeMaagd, the order would take effect the Saturday before Memorial Day—May 25 this year—and run through Labor Day.
The first season would be educational, as campers acclimate to new practices, Flannigan said; after that, violations could be punishable with fines up to $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for an organization and a maximum jail sentence of six months, according to the order.
As written, it would last until 2021, and excludes the three lower-traffic wilderness areas within the SNRA: the Sawtooth, White Clouds and Hemingway-Boulders.
“This is a way to try to mitigate harmed bears, and harmed humans,” Flannigan said. “It could be a bit of a burden on people initially, until they get in the same mindset as in Yellowstone or Glacier areas.”
From 2006 through 2016, rangers reported between two and 15 annual incidents involving humans and black bears, Flannigan said. In 2017, that number peaked at 20, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game killed two animals that repeatedly visited campgrounds north of Ketchum.
“When those bears were killed in 2017, it was pretty devastating,” said Betsy Mizell, who runs the Idaho Conservation League’s Ketchum field office. “This order will keep future wildlife alive, and educate people who use these forests. I think it’s very exciting.”