Wildlife and recreation: A delicate balance for parks

This week we have been focused on capturing an untagged sow and possibly her cubs. The sow has been getting in to packs and getting near developed areas too frequently. We would like to put a radio collar on the sow and at least tag the cubs. We are also trying to re-capture an adult male called Orange 66 who dropped his radio collar some time ago.

Our lead wildlife technician Ryan is back from his days off and he is getting down to business with our new darting gun. His plan for capturing the sow and cubs reads like a football play. He was literally drawing out our positions on a whiteboard. I was getting nervous as he was explaining how precise we have to be in order to successfully capture a sow and later reunite it with her cubs. The main area of concern is keeping the cubs in trees while we do the work-up on the sow, and then reuniting them, all while avoiding massive crowds and minding our own safety around the motherly sow. We did not get a perfect opportunity to do this yet, but it will happen in the next few days.

We have been opening bear traps as well. These large culvert style traps are designed to allow a bear to simply walk inside and grab a bag of food, which closes a door behind them. We have been opening four traps nightly in strategic locations and checking them throughout the night and early morning. It is always very exciting to see a trap door closed as you approach. It means there is a bear inside. When tourists find out about this they go crazy. People will surround the occupied trap and we end up doing a mini-presentation when we arrive to transport the trap back to the office.

Food storage violations have been really bad this year. One camp in particular, housekeeping camp, has been really bad. Housekeeping often attracts large families and groups for annual visits, and the place can get quite chaotic with parties, decorations, and food storage issues. We had to call law enforcement several times this week to help us deal with drunk campers who would not put their food away. We did a thorough walk through inspection and found food left out, lockers open, dumpsters overflowing, and food in vehicles. It is really sad when people don’t get the wildlife message and bears or other animals eat human food which eventually ends up killing them.