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WA Forest More "Bearable" with Food-Locker Protections

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Thursday, June 17, 2021   

SEATTLE - With the addition of food-storage lockers to the Colville National Forest, campers will be able to deter grizzly bears - and in turn, avoid conflict with the vulnerable species.

Groups have teamed up with the 1.5 million-acre forest in northeast Washington to install 20 steel boxes for food, to help keep grizzlies from being attracted to campsites.

Michael Borysewicz, a wildlife biologist who works for the U.S. Forest Service at the forest, said they've been installing lockers for about a decade and campers find them very convenient.

"What we've noticed when we put a locker in a given campsite is that the number of incidents of improperly stored food by campers goes down pretty dramatically," said Borysewicz.

The groups Defenders of Wildlife, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and Scenic Canyons Recreation Services are funding the lockers, and all of them should be installed by this fall.

Grizzlies in the region are a vulnerable species. The Selkirk Recovery Zone for the bears spans the U.S. and Canadian border.

Zoe Hanley, Northwest representative with Defenders of Wildlife, said about 10 grizzlies live on the Washington side of the border, so recovering every individual counts.

She said it can be scary when bears come into a campsite looking for food, and they might damage a tent or car. Hanley noted conflicts with humans also put bears at risk.

"That can lead to bears being removed, killed, lethally controlled from those areas when they get into conflict with people," said Hanley. "And so, this is an opportunity to keep people safe in grizzly country, and to ensure that this recovering grizzly population has the opportunity to do so successfully."

Jessie Grossman, U.S. program manager with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, said grizzles need to be able to move long distances in order to maintain a healthy population.

She noted it's important that grizzlies in this region move across the Canadian border and connect with the U.S. populations.

"The Selkirk bears in particular really play an important role in that larger scale of keeping bears in North America connected and healthy," said Grossman. "And that's one of the reasons why we chose to work there."

Grossman advised people staying in grizzly country to secure their food and carry bear spray.



Disclosure: Defenders of Wildlife contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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