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Think Outside the Box to Keep Bears Out of the Food Box

You don't have to be Yogi Bear to figure out that campers bring all kinds of yummy things into the woods. Because the chances for bad things to happen to humans and bears skyrocket when bears get undeserved rewards, a coalition of groups has been working to make it tougher for bears to get into trouble at the Island Park Boy Scout Camp. The Defenders of Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, and Idaho Department of Fish and Game have been working with the Boy Scouts of America to come up with a funding method to supply enough food storage containers to help keep bears from getting into trouble. "If we can get the scouts to use the food storage boxes and keep a clean camp, then our chances of running into problems with bears greatly decreases," said Sarah Grigg, the Fish and Game/Forest Service grizzly bear education technician. Keeping bears out of trouble is not rocket science, but it does require a commitment and a significant amount of cash. In the case of the bear-proof food storage containers for the camp, the big question was where to find the $450 dollars for each of the 36 boxes needed. Fortunately, there was no shortage of people willing to commit to helping prevent problems from happening. The Defenders of Wildlife came forward with the first $5,000, the Forest Service and Boy Scouts each came up with another $5,000. To really top things off, wildlife biologist Bryan Aber of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest secured an additional grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for $15,000. The day before the boxes were delivered to the Island Park Scout Camp, another 36, purchased through a similar agreement, were delivered to the Treasure Mountain Boy Scout Camp near Driggs. Buying food storage containers is an important step in the right direction, but success depends on campers being educated to act properly in bear country and follow through every day. Grigg will help train camp counselors about being safe in bear country. Partnerships, such as this one between, state, federal and private organizations, are important to making it so that bears and humans can safely coexist. Changing the infrastructure to meet the needs of bears and humans is important, but helping humans to make a permanent change in how they behave in bear country is the most important thing. To learn about living or hunting in bear country, go to http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/manage_issues/brochure.pdf, or http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/grizzly/grizz.pdf, or go to www.igbconline.org.