Special Detail Scheduled to Patrol Eastern High Peaks Wilderness This Weekend
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan announced today that a special enforcement detail will be patrolling the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness on the weekend of August 18-20, 2006, to ensure compliance with regulations requiring overnight users to store all food, toiletries and garbage in a bear resistant canister.
“The goal of the bear resistant canister regulation is to significantly reduce negative human-bear interactions in the Eastern High Peaks,” said Commissioner Sheehan. “Lack of compliance with this regulation can lead to bears obtaining food from humans and becoming nuisance bears – a situation that has proven unsafe for bears and people.”
DEC Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Officers will be patrolling the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness to ensure compliance with the bear resistant canister regulation. The regulation requires overnight users in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks Wilderness Area to use bear resistant canisters for the storage of food, toiletries, and garbage during the period of April 1 through November 30 of each year. Violators of the regulation will be ticketed and may be subject to a fine of up to $250.
The regulation defines bear resistant canisters as a commercially made container constructed of solid, non-pliable material manufactured for the specific purpose of resisting entry by bears. Bear resistant canisters are usually made of hard plastic, weigh three to five pounds, and can hold up to nine days worth of food for one camper. Canisters are available for purchase or rental at many outdoor equipment retailers statewide.
Black bears spend a great deal of time exploring for food. Intelligent and curious, bears learn from experience. If a bear is successful in obtaining food through a certain activity, they will repeat that activity. If an encounter with a hiker or camper results in a bear obtaining food, it will associate campers or hikers with food. Once rewarded it will repeat the behavior until it is habituated to obtaining food from campers. Habituated bears lose their fear of people, becoming a nuisance or worse. Their behavior can become aggressive, endangering the safety of humans.
To best ensure your safety and the safety of others, do not allow bears to obtain campers’ food. Bear resistant canisters have proven to be an effective means for preventing bears from obtaining campers’ food. Data collected by DEC during the summer of 2004 shows that of the approximately 400 reported bear interactions with humans in the Eastern High Peaks, half resulted in bears taking campers’ food. Of the people who reported encounters with bears, over 75 % of those that had been using tree hangs lost their food to bears. Many national and state parks have successfully decreased negative human-bear encounters through requiring the use of bear resistant canisters in the back country.
New York’s regulation became effective August 24, 2005 after an extensive two year public education effort on bear resistant canisters and the regulation. The education effort included the development and distribution of information through web pages, fact sheets, tip strips, trailhead signs, displays, presentations and direct mailings to over 500 recreation groups, outing clubs, summer camps, lodging facilities, tourism groups, nature centers and information centers within the Adirondacks and across the northeast.
Requiring bear resistant canisters is just one step in DEC’s comprehensive effort to significantly reduce negative encounters with bears in the Eastern High Peaks. In addition, DEC has undertaken the following:
- implementing an extensive education and outreach effort to make campers in High Peaks aware of bears, the problems they can cause and the means to avoid those problems;
- enacting a more systematic program for negatively conditioning bears; and
- studying the bears and their interactions with humans to more precisely define the problem and the means to address it.
More information on bears, bear resistant canisters and the regulation may be found on the DEC’s web site