Reminders to Visitors of Special Rules for Storing Food

Contact(s): Leona Rodreick

Considering recent bear attacks in the southern Gravelly Mountains, officials are asking campers and hunters to be especially vigilant this year. If you camp in the Madison, Gravelly, Snowcrest, or Tobacco Root mountains in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, the Forest Service has some rules designed to keep bears out of your camp.

Such items as food, beverages, game meat, carcass parts, processed livestock food, pet food, garbage, and personal toiletries like toothpaste, soap, and deodorant can attract bears, and are required to be properly stored. While specific rules for storing these items apply in the four mountain ranges in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest’s Madison Ranger District, to the Forest Service recommends that you protect yourself by keeping a clean camp everywhere.

Visitors are required to keep food and other “attractants:”
1) Stored in a closed, solid-sided vehicle or horse trailer,
2) Stored in bear-resistant containers certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), or
3) Hung 10 feet off the ground and four feet away from any tree or support pole.

To help people comply with the rules in the four mountain ranges, the Forest Service has certified, bear-resistant containers available for free checkout at Forest Service offices in Sheridan and Ennis. These containers include lightweight horse panniers and plastic barrels for backpacking.

In addition, bear-proof storage containers have been placed in campgrounds on the Madison Ranger District, and elsewhere throughout the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

District Ranger Sue Heald said, “The most common problems we see are people leaving out beer and other sealed drink containers, as well as coolers. Most coolers are not bear proof and must be properly stored when you are away from your camp and at night. Leaving any debris in your fire pit that may smell of food, such as partially burned cans and tin foil, can also attract bears.”

If you hunt and have an animal carcass, keep it properly stored and located at least 100 yards from your camp, a trail, or any place people will sleep. Animal carcasses attract a variety of wildlife including bears, so you must hang or store your animal carcass between 100 yards to one-half mile from your camp.
Carcasses left on the ground must be kept at least one-half mile from camping areas and at least 200 yards from a trail. When you return to a carcass, officials warn you to approach it very noisily and cautiously, since a bear could be in the area, and is attracted by the dead animal.

By following these rules you can help protect yourself and bears, as well as avoid receiving a ticket and fine.

For more information, call the Forest Service in Ennis at (406) 682-4253 or in Sheridan at (406) 842-5432.