Sunday, July 5, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) temporarily closed campsites and lean-tos in the Lake Colden area in the Adirondack High Peaks, Essex County, after a recent increase in bear activity. The sites are now reopen. Campers in other areas of the Eastern High Peaks are encouraged to follow DEC guidance for dealing with nuisance bears. Minimizing human-bear interactions can be accomplished through a few simple steps. Adirondack Explorer editor Brandon Loomis was backpacking over the weekend and experienced the increased bear activity firsthand. Read about it here (and watch a video): https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/stories/state-captures-bear-that-raided-lake-colden-campsites While bear interactions can happen on the trails, conflicts are most often associated with backcountry camping. In June, black bear movement increases as the breeding season begins and yearling (one-year-old) bears disperse to find their own space. Inevitably some of these bears, particularly yearlings, wander through places these animals would not normally inhabit, like suburban or urban neighborhoods. Bears have an acute sense of smell and may attempt to consume anything they perceive as edible, including improperly stored garbage, birdseed, livestock, pet food, and barbecue grill grease traps. Once a bear has discovered a food source, it may return or seek similar foods at neighboring properties, learning bad behavior that can damage human property and may lead to the death of the bear. Do not feed bears intentionally. Feeding bears intentionally is illegal and a ticketable offense. Bears that obtain food from humans will continue to seek food from humans and become nuisance bears, which can pose a threat to humans. Visitors to the backcountry are encouraged to:
- Pack a minimal amount of food. Use lightweight and dehydrated foods. Plan all meals to avoid leftovers;
- Use bear-resistant food canisters, which are required in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness of the Adirondack Park;
- Cook and eat before dark and cook away from campsites;
- Avoid spills and drippings while cooking and do not pour grease into fire pits; and
- Never leave food unattended.
If you encounter a bear:
- Don’t panic. Most bears are as afraid of people as people are of bears;
- Never approach, surround, or corner a bear;
- Back away slowly-do not run;
- Do not throw backpacks or food at bears. If bears are rewarded with food, they will continue to seek food from people; and
- If feeling threatened by a bear, raise your arms over your head to look bigger and yell loudly at the bear while slowly backing away.
For more information, visit DEC webpages on black bears and reducing bear-human conflicts. Photo: A paw print in the muddy trail near the Lake Colden dam, July 4. Photo by Brandon Loomis/Adirondack Explorer