Bear Proof Your Next Desolation Wilderness Visit
Desolation Wilderness – July 13, 2022 – To be clear bear proof canisters have been suggested or highly recommended for sometime by the National forest Service when visiting Desolation wilderness. But, just as fire have been banned for over 20 years and people still create fires in Desolation. Hikers have continued to live by their own rules and now the bears of desolation have become accustom to camp visits and backpack theft.
By Forest order 3-22-11 the National forest Service is now mandating that all overnight guests are required to carry with then a bear proof canister. This eliminates the bear hang bags that are so popular in desolation and are often taken by bears as well. This order goes into effect July 18th, 2022. At this time there is no knowledge or plan for the forest service to provide rental cans for guests. All visitors will be required to obtain their own backpacking bear canister.
In a story we wrote in April of this year “Bear Proof Your Backpacking Experience in Desolation Wilderness” I wrote, As a Volunteer ranger for the wilderness area the past four years I feel that I can honestly say that Bears have become far more aware of the easy meals obtained by human food storage in the wilderness. Many a morning hike into the wilderness to do my weekend clean ups, is met by a group of hikers on the trail out early in the morning. The story is always the same.
A Bear took our food last night and we are hungry
Bears in Desolation wilderness have taken notice of poor practices of day hikers and backpackers alike. Campsites with food laying around or with bear hangs that an average child could get food from are common sites in Desolation. Maybe it is because Desolation is so easy to access it draws people who just don’t know better? From a jaded perspective, based on conversation I have had, more than likely it is an attitude of indifference or refusal to follow the rules.
This method is strongly encouraged throughout the entire Tahoe Rim Trail and its system. Bears are extremely active in the Lake Tahoe Basin, especially on the west side. Bear canisters are essential for protecting your food, gear, and our Tahoe bears. Please do your part and bring a bear canister.Tahoe Rim trail Association
What should go in your Bear Canisters?
Every thing that smells. Literally. Bears have one of the best noses in the world and can smell simple Chapsticks, cough drops, medicines, toothpaste, etc. Talk with any one of the numerous car owners where bears in Tahoe have broken into their cars for a simple Chapstick or piece of candy left on the floor board of the car. Bears are not picky with their adventurous sprit to try anything that smells.
The following bear safety tips for hikers and backpackers should be followed at all times:
- Store food in bear-resistant canisters while recreating in the backcountry.
- Hike in groups and keep an eye on small children.
- Keep dogs on leash. Off-leash dogs can provoke bears to respond defensively.
- Watch for signs of bears, such as bear scat along trails or claw marks on trees.
- Stay alert and make noise while on trails so bears know you are there and can avoid you.
- Never approach bears or cubs. Always keep a safe distance and never get between a sow and her cubs.
If a bear does approach your campsite, stay calm and stand your ground. Make yourself appear larger by raising your arms above your head or if wearing a jacket, open it wide and clap your hands or make other loud noises. Do not run or act aggressively and never block a bear’s escape route. Black bear attacks are rare, but if attacked, fight back.
- Pack your Bear Canister before you leave, to make sure all your food fits. If space is tight, consider excluding your first days’ lunch and snacks.
- Remember to allow space for scented toiletries, trash, and pet food. Some people store camp cookware in their bear canister, and if you have plenty of space it’s a good idea, but it is not necessary. Most campers simply clean their camp cookware after each use and leave it out in the open, away from their tent (it will still have some scent on it).
- If you use insect repellent with DEET, do not allow it to come into contact with your Bear canister. Double-bag it in ziplocks, and ensure there is no residue outside the bags. DEET causes irreparable harm to the plastic in bear canisters, and it voids your warranty.
- Include a trash bag to keep your trash separate from your food.
- Repackage food into ziplock bags to reduce space taken by inefficient packaging materials.
- Organize food into larger ziplock sets so it is easier to locate food by meal.
- After a few days of eating, you will have extra space in your Bear canister®. Fill the space with other items to keep your pack as compact as it can be.
Tips For Packing Bear Canisters in Your Pack
- Once your Bear Canister is packed with food, it will probably be the single heaviest item in your pack. You want your pack to transfer the weight onto your hips, for the most comfort and energy conservation while hiking. Ideally, you should pack heavy items close to your body and at mid-back level. In other words, layer the bottom of your pack with items that are less dense (sleeping bag, tent, inflatable sleeping pad, clothes you don’t need handy). Next place your heavy items (food, tent pegs, etc.). If your pack is wide, place the heaviest items close to your back, not far away from your back. On the top you should place remaining items, and those that you need to have handy (rain jacket, snacks for the day, etc.).
- Bear Canisters can be strapped to a pack. There are dimples or ridges on the side that serve as strap guides, to help secure it to the pack. However, if at all possible, it is better to place the weight mid-back inside your pack.