The black bear’s sleek black coat and seven-foot frame used to symbolize Adirondack wilderness. The black bear could be found munching on berries or grabbing fish from a stream. Today, black bears in the High Peaks scavenge for food left out by backpackers and hikers. Black bears are opportunist hunters and will eat whatever is the easiest to find. Why bother hunting when a human has a feast prepared?
Popular campsites often have food left out overnight which continues to attract bears. Over time bears become aggressive towards people as they look for food. Once a bear continues to return to an area and is aggressive it is classified as a nuisance bear. The first step to stopping a nuisance bear is food protection.
The most effective form of food protection is bear canisters. Bear canisters are required in the Eastern High Peaks Zone between April 1st and November 30th and recommended throughout the Adirondacks. Bear canisters are smooth cylinders which makes them challenging for a bear to grab and open. Here at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Information Center (VIC), we are renting bear canisters for only 5 dollars a weekend and 10 dollars for 6 nights. Our canisters are only 2.7 pounds and 8.8 inches by 11 inches long which is perfect for a weeklong expedition.
There are a few things to remember when using a bear canister. Pack the canister the night before a trip to ensure all the food fits. In field the bear canister must be stored at least 100 feet away from a campsite and cooking area. Store the canister on level ground so that a bear will be less likely to detect it. Never place your canister near water because a bear could knock it into a river or lake. It is not recommended to hang the bear canister because a bear can easily grab the rope and take off with your food!
Wild bears are not the problem, people failing to protect their food are. Often the DEC gets involved with nuisance bears. First, they remove all food from the site the bear is returning to. If that does not work the bear is trapped and brought to a new place. The last resort for stopping a bear is euthanizing it.
If you encounter a bear, stay calm and back away slowly, do not run. Do not throw food or your backpack at a bear, this will only make them because a nuisance bear to other people. To scare the bear away make loud noises and put your hands over your head to get as big as possible.
Come check out the VIC and rent a bear canister of your own! Register online or at the front desk then pick up your canister. We look forward to seeing you and thank you for protecting yourself and the black bear!
Bear photos courtesy of Larry Master. Canister photo provided by Paul Smith’s College VIC