Multiple Black Bear Incidents Cause White River National Forest Campground to Shut Down

by Shelby Scott

Black bears are popular scavengers in North America. However, a Colorado campsite recently had to shut down due to an overabundance of the animals’ activity. White River National Forest’s Avalanche Campground has experienced multiple incidents involving black bears in recent weeks. The latest incident, which involved one bear completely destroying a tent, was the deciding factor in the forest service‘s decision.

Avalanche Campground, according to The Denver Post, is located off of route Colorado 133 and hosts 6 first-come-first-serve campsites. The United States Forest Service closed the small campground Friday in an effort to protect both campers and bears.

Because of bears scavenging habits, the USFS shared that, “Nearly all problems with black bears at campgrounds can be traced to improper food storage.”

The improper storage of food on human campsites provides bears easy access to meals. Because of this, they frequently learn to return to those sites. The USFS further shared that the increasing number of incidents indicates campers are too lax about food and safety.

The service’s press release explained that “The White River National Forest has a food storage order in place for all of its developed campgrounds…to help prevent black bears and other wildlife from obtaining food from humans and becoming a nuisance or dangerous.”

The tent most recently destroyed didn’t have food in it. Regardless, it did indicate that the bear was familiar with human areas and definitely associated the campsite with food. The service explained the shutdown this time of year, considering recent incidents, is necessary as bears enter a late-summer feeding frenzy. These habits, known as hyperphagia, occur regularly as the bears prepare to hibernate.

Black Bears Are More Intelligent Than We’ve Come to Believe

Americans living in rural areas are quite familiar with the presence of black bears. That is, especially as it draws nearer to garbage day each week. Additionally, they earn the title, “nuisance” in their hunt for food. Overall, humans have come to believe the animals themselves are dense lumbering creatures.

However, according to Sue Fairbanks, a bear researcher at Oklahoma State University’s Department of Natural Resources Ecology and Management, this is not the case. “One of the biggest ways bears get into trouble with humans is from eating corn from deer feeders.”

While the feed isn’t so much the issue, it’s that they typically destroy hunters’ feeders in their search for food. One hunter stated that despite the electric barrier he placed around it, the animal simply learned to unplug it.

And as if the destruction of the feeders isn’t upsetting enough, the bears also teach their offspring about feed locations. Professionals further speculate that as the feeders transform and the fuzzy creatures share a collective knowledge of food sources, the problem most likely won’t go away. So, obstacle or not, it appears the animals won’t give up quite as easily as we may hope.