Campground closed after bear gets close |

Campground closed after bear gets close

Cliff Thompson

VAIL – Close encounters of the bear kind forced the U.S. Forest Service to close the popular Gore Creek Campground east of Vail Monday.The closure wasn’t so much caused by a “problem bear” as it was by the careless food handling by humans, said Bill Andree of the Colorado Division of Wildlife. No on was injured by the bear.”It’s not the bear’s fault,” said Andree. “It’s a people problem.”The campground reopened on Thursday with use limited to people using hard-sided campers instead of tents, said Cal Wettstein of the Forest Service.In successive days the black bear broke into one vehicle, entered another vehicle and then a tent, Andree said. In each instance, the bear was looking for food.”People had food out and the bear came in to get the food,” Andree said. “A car window had been left partly open and there was fruit inside the car. The bear decided to open the window the rest of the way.”In the grizzly bear country of Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, campers deposit their food in bear-proof food boxes, said Andree. “They aren’t having these problems there,” he said.When camping in the backcountry, you should suspend your food from a tree, where a bear can’t reach it and away from your campsite, said Andree. The Forest Service wants to install bear-proof food containers in the Gore Creek campground, Wettstein said. That campground has 26 camping spaces.It’s not the first time the campground has been closed because of a bear getting too habituated to humans. Five years ago the campground was closed for the same reason, Wettstein said. If the bear continues to frequent the campground, it could meet the fate of two bears in Eagle-Vail which broke into cars and garbage cans left out for collection. Those two were trapped and killed, Andree said.So strong was the lure of human food that the bears emerged from hibernation in December and again in February to eat food left in trash cans overnight for collection, he said. When they re-emerged for hibernation in April, the bears continued their trash-eating ways and were trapped.Eagle-Vail does not have an ordinance prohibiting people leaving garbage cans out overnight, as do other communities, Andree said. But the homeowners there are purchasing bear-proof trash containers and limiting the days on which trash is picked up, he said.At this time of year, before the berry and acorn crop is ripe – and after other bear food such as grasses and forbes have begun to dry out – bears search more widely for something to eat, Andree said. That can put them in your back yard if you’ve got a bird feeders, trash, pet food or even a dirty barbecue grill, he said.Since the campground was closed, the bear has not been seen, Andree said.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or, Colorado

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