Raided trash cans

Bear-resistant trash cans can't do their job when garbage is stacked on top of the receptacles. A Wyoming Game and Fish Department employee snapped this picture recently, and wildlife managers say that bear conflicts are picking up. 

One Jackson Hole bear is dead and another two have been hauled to more remote locales after raiding visitors’ picnics and residents’ trash cans.

The subadult female black bear that lost her life regularly trolled developed parts of Jenny and String lakes, an area that has seen regular summertime conflict in recent years despite efforts to educate visitors not to feed the bears.

“We did intend to relocate it,” Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman Denise Germann said. “But we were unable to trap it.”

In the meantime, the behavior persisted, she said. The habituated animal received human “food rewards” on at least four occasions since June, and that’s just what was reported and confirmed.

By the time park rangers had the food-motivated bruin in a live trap Friday, the sow was considered too far gone to have a shot at changing the human food-habituated behavior.

“It was approaching people,” Germann said, “and it went onto the top of a picnic table with people around it.”

In the meantime, a similar situation was playing out around Moose-Wilson Road.

Another sow, this time an animal that had been previously tagged and radio-collared, had exhibited several instances of habituated behavior, including putting its paws on an occupied vehicle, and also of having been fed.

“It has displayed habituated behaviors the last couple years,” Germann said.

Biologists deemed this bear to have a better chance at breaking the habit, and after being captured the black bear sow was relocated to John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway.

A theme of the human-bear conflicts around Jenny Lake this summer has been that picnicking visitors were poorly prepared to gather all of their food when the now-dead black bear opportunistically approached.

“People are running and leaving,” Germann said, “or they’re grabbing a cooler, but left all the food on the picnic table.”

It’s not just Grand Teton rangers who have been busy responding to marauding black bears early in the summer.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesman Mark Gocke reported to the Jackson Hole Daily that black bear conflicts have been widespread throughout the valley for the last couple of weeks.

“They trapped and relocated a female black bear from Teton Village to the Squirrel Meadows area this morning,” Gocke said Monday.

In parts of Jackson Hole where Game and Fish has jurisdiction, it has been mostly garbage-related conflicts, he said. There are bear-resistant garbage can zoning requirements in most developed areas outside of the town of Jackson limits, but faulty cans, cans left out overnight and people stacking trash on top of full cans have allowed conflicts to persist.

Grand Teton National Park, likewise, has regulations prohibiting feeding bears. But violations, including inadvertent feeding, tend to be routine.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067, or @JHNGenviro.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them for 7 years. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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