Monday, June 26, 2006


Steve was working in the park office a day ago, when a woman came in all agitated and irate... they had been away from their campsite from 6pm to 9pm and during that time someone had stolen a large Rubbermaid container of food from their picnic table and we needed to provide better security surveillance in our park.

Steve said, "I can tell you where it is."

The woman said, "Oh... did someone turn it in?"

Steve said, "Nope. But it's within a hundred yards of your campsite."

The woman: "Have you seen it?"

Steve: "Nope."

The woman: "Then how do you know?"

Steve: "Because that's what bears do."

So Steve accompanied the woman back to her campsite, and they looked around a little, sure enough, not a hundred yards away, there was the container, chewed, clawed, and pried open, its contents ravaged and the remains strewn all over. The woman was aghast. "I thought the container was safe," she said. "It's a Rubbermaid."

They just don't get it. We have big signs. We hand out written instructions about storing food inside a rigid-sided vehicle, like a car, truck, or camper. Not in a tent. Not in a jeep with canvas/plastic windows. Not in a cooler at your campsite. And not in a Rubbermaid container on your picnic table.

Some of the lakeside summer residents have pretty "bearproof" garbage-can containers made of 2 X 4 slats, that blend right in with the landscape and look really environmentally compatible. I've seen them, on my runs, with the slats ripped apart, the garbage cans extracted, the contents strewn far and wide.

The only thing that works is to keep garbage or camp food in the house, in a closed garage, in metal bins with locks, in closed vehicles (read: windows CLOSED, not left open), or inside campers.

We tell them. They just don't get it.

And yet they walk around the hiking trails in the woods with bells on their backpacks, purchased at the campground nature center, to scare mild-mannered black bears away. Like this is Yellowstone with grizzlies, or something. Yes, such bells are sold at the nature center, but only because people have requested them, not because they're indicated. We can't get stuck saying they asked and did not receive.

They think they have to arm themselves with jingle-bells, but they leave their food out so bears can perceive humans as a source of marshmallows, donuts, and grilled chicken.

They ought to have to pass an IQ test before they can set up camp.

They just don't get it.


nancytoby said...

How do you ever refrain from saying "WTF did you expect, dumbass!?"

I'm glad I don't have that job. :-)

Ellie said...

But...but...but... it was a Rubbermaid....

TxSkatemom said...

my sister-in-law's parents finally moved out of Aspen b/c their local bear kept breaking into the house while they were out of town. My brother found him in the kitchen rooting through the fridge once. Not a pretty sight. The rangers ended up relocating her.

Iron Pol said...

I remember backpacking in the backcountry of Yellowstone. We weren't overly concerned about the bears, but we got the full gamut of warnings, anyway. We carried our rapelling ropes for stringing our packs from the trees.

It's amazing how people can think that Rubbermaid vs. bear can go any way except in the bear's favor. Even the car will fare poorly if the bear is motivated.