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Campers report food-conditioned bears in Wood River Valley and Fairfield campgrounds

Biologists with Fish and Game, Magic Valley Region received reports over the July 4th holiday weekend of black bears getting into camp sites in both the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and in the Fairfield Ranger District. Unfortunately, bears in both locations have been receiving food rewards from camper’s unsecured food and garbage.

Sawtooth National Recreation Area

In the Sawtooth National Recreation Area north of Ketchum a bear has been reported in dispersed campsites in the North Fork area. The bear has been reported to have walked into numerous campsites over the past several days. While in the campsites the bear has found unsecured food and it has been reported to have damaged camping gear and attempted to get inside vehicles.

Michael Wampler/Idaho Fish and Game

Signage posted in the North Fork area of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area alerting campers to a food conditioned bear in the area, July 2022

In the interest of public safety Fish and Game officers will deploy a bear trap in the area. Once a bear becomes food-conditioned they present a threat to residents and campers since they can become aggressive as they protect their human-sourced food. When and if the bear is trapped it will be euthanized.

Campers are reminded of the food-storage order that is in place in the SNRA. The purpose of this Order is to protect public safety and wildlife by minimizing adverse interactions between bears and humans. Contact the SNRA Headquarters at 208-727-5000 for more information about the food-storage order. 

Fairfield Ranger District

A black bear that is quickly becoming food-conditioned is frequenting the Baumgartner Campground on the Fairfield Ranger District. The bear is finding food rewards in and around the campground, especially from overflowing dumpsters. A food-conditioned bear is not a safe situation for campers or the bear. Fish and Game biologists have put up signage warning campers of the bear activity and strongly encourage that all food and garbage is stored in a secure location, like a camper or vehicle.

Leon Burman/Idaho Fish and Game

Overflowing garbage dumpsters at the Baumgartner Campground have attracted black bears into the campground, July 2022.

Securely storing all food attractants is key

It never ends well for the bear when it becomes food-conditioned.

Food and garbage storage when camping is very important. Bears are quick learners and have an excellent sense of smell. When food or food scraps is improperly stored, it can attract bears that can easily get to the food. When this happens, it never turns out favorably for the bear.

Unfortunately, a bear conditioned to human-sourced food leaves Fish and Game officials with no other choice but to put the bear down to ensure public safety. 

To minimize chances of a bear visiting your campsite and finding food, campers need to keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Never store any food or scented products in your tent.
  • Store all food, camp garbage and even toothpaste, soap, lotions and bug spray in your vehicle or camper. Never leave food outside on your picnic table, or even in an unattended or improperly stored cooler.
  • A clean camp is very important to not attract bears. Clean all dishes and cooking utensils away from your tent and campsite after each meal.
  • If food storage in a vehicle is not possible, hang your food in a tree 10 to 15 feet off the ground, at least 100 yards from your campsite. Make sure that the bag is at least 4 feet from the tree trunk. Ideally, campers are encouraged to have a bear-resistant food canister to store their camp groceries.
  • Remember that pet food can also attract bears to your campsite. Be sure and secure any pet food after feeding your pet.
  • Do not bury food scraps or pour cooking grease on the ground, or in your fire pit.

For more information or to report sightings and encounters contact the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359 during business hours, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday. If after hours, local conservation officers can be reached by calling your local sheriff’s office.