The Colville National Forest recently completed the installation of 27 food storage lockers at developed campgrounds in Pend Oreille County. These 30 cubic foot metal lockers are designed to provide campers with a convenient place to securely store food and beverages. The idea is to keep hungry bears from being attracted to occupied campsites. Funding to purchase of the lockers was provided by the following cooperators; Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Kalispel Tribe, Pend Oreille County PUD, Scenic Canyons Recreational Services (campground concessionaire), Seattle City Light, and Selkirk Conservation Alliance.
Bears are very intelligent animals. They remember where they have found a good meal in the past and will usually revisit those sites, in hopes of repeating the experience. If a bear learns that food is readily available at a campground, it may begin to associate the presence of humans with a food reward. Such bears can lose their fear of people and can become increasingly bold and aggressive. It may then become necessary for these animals to be destroyed by state wildlife authorities. The old saying “a fed bear is a dead bear” is all too often true.
The Colville National Forest requires campers to store all food, beverages, and other attractants in a hard-sided vehicle or an approved, animal-resistant container when they are away from camp, or at night when they are asleep. Food should never be brought into a tent. Hikers camping away from their vehicles should suspend their food from a tree branch at least ten feet off the ground and four feet from the tree trunk. Forest visitors may be surprised to learn that anything that has a scent such as candles, soap, deodorant, or toothpaste, can attract a bear. Pet food, un-cleaned grills, and garbage are all powerful wildlife attractants as well.
Officials with the Forest Service expect that the new food lockers will be well used and serve as a reminder to campers that proper food storage is a matter of safety; for themselves, for other campers, and for native wildlife. If you have questions or comments concerning this project, please contact the Newport Ranger Station (509-447-7300) or the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station (509- 446-7500).