Thursday, July 26, 2007
A bear box on every island
Anyone who has camped the in the Apostles knows which islands have bear boxes. For the uninitiated, these are large metal boxes where you put your food, soap, toothpaste, etc to prevent Mr. Bear from entering your camp and consuming them noisily during the night. As a young Boy Scout at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, I watched a very experienced bear knock down a bear bag and eat 2 dozen pop tarts, including unwrapping them, in 2 minutes flat. He also consumed a box of Tetrox soap which made trailing him very simple the next morning. A bear box is very handy because most people have no clue on how to properly hang a bear bag. Also, there are usually few suitable trees to hang hang them in 'perfectly'. If there is a good tree near a campsite, the bark is worn off on the branch that is being used constantly which does the tree no good at all. The other problem with bear bags is that they are usually strung up at dusk or after dark, well past Happy Hour, by tying a large rock to a line while everyone stands around and watches the rock sail up into the air and then come down, with any luck not on someones head. My friend RangerMark, warns against overhand throwing to protect the shoulder but we guys are genetically unable to toss the damn things underhand. Wouldn't want to be accused of throwing like a girl.....
The bottom line is that the designated camping areas on the islands need bear boxes and they don't all have them. Last year the Park Service had to close Basswood to camping due to bear issues and this year they closed Hermit indefinitely after it was reported that a 250# bear ran off with a campers sleeping bag. Hermit, being a wilderness zone island, has no designated campsites so the point is moot. Basswood however, has many more sites than bear boxes. Oak Island has had its share of bear problems and Stockton has one of the highest bear densities in North America. It would appear there is a some correlation between no bear boxes and bear problems. Even the islands that allegedly have no bears aren't really bear free. They can and do easily swim between islands and also cross the ice in the winter.
A few of us want to try to get a project going to add more bear boxes where needed. NPS funding, as we all know, is at a low level. No one wants to have islands closed, their food scavenged, to get hit in the head with a rock, or see bears shot for doing what comes naturally. According to information gleaned by Gurney Granny (shown anchoring the line in the bear bag raising photo) at a 'Climate Friendly Parks' workshop, an installed bear box costs $500. The Friends group funds needed projects and we were hoping that some of the paddle clubs whose members use the park regularly might want to ante up also. If you are interested, please circulate this post. More concrete info will follow in the next couple weeks.