Not Even Bear(ly) a Trace

It's no secrect at this point: As we enter summer recreation season, it's impossible not to notice that visitation to public lands across the nation is up. Like, WAY up. The U.S. Forest Service's Washington Office recently reported, "New data shows more people than ever visited national forests and grasslands last year...National forests and grasslands received 168 million visits in 2020 – an increase of 18 million when compared to 2019."

Especially as visitation soars, we all need to know the principles of Leaving No Trace, and why that is so incredibly important any time we venture outside. The first step is that we acknowledge that our experiences that we desire should be ours and ours alone. Afterall, what's the point in seeking out those experiences if they are shaped and molded by those who came before us, right? One person's outdoor experience may look very different than another person's, and it's imporant to understand that.

So, what about wildlife? How do we make sure that our experiences are ours, and their experiences are theirs? It's an important consideration. Let's dive in!

Here on the RRSNF, one of the places that is being visited is the Wild and Scenic Lower Rogue River, which runs from Grave Creek to Lobster Bar. It has always been a popular place, with tens of thousands of people floating down the river or hiking the Rogue River National Recreation Trail every year. This means that every year, those visitors are venturing into Black Bear Country, and there are important steps to be taken to ensure that both people and bears are safe!

The most important rule for visiting this incredible place? Properly store anything that could attract wildlife into your campsite, and know what those attractants are!

Be Bear Aware on the River poster

Wildlife attractants include:

  • ALL FOOD, including late night snacks like chocolate bars
  • Canned and freeze dried foods
  • Flavored beverages: sports drinks and mixes, beer, wine, liquor
  • Soaps and sponges
  • Grills and BBQs
  • Insect repellent
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Lotions, including sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Deodorant
  • Medications, specifically liquids and pills with a sugary coating
  • Hygienic wipes
  • Tissues with lotion
  • Cough drops

Hikers and boaters have a variety of different methods available to them to store attractants along the river and trail! 

  • Electricfied fences are located in some campsites alone the river, allowing for storage of large coolers, grills, garbage, etc. in one location. The number one rule of thumb with those fences? Make sure they are ALWAYS on so that bears see them as a true deterrent. A fence only works to keep bears out if it's on! Only turn the fence off to enter the enclosure, and then flip the switch back to "on" when leaving.
  • Bear boxes are also located in various places along the river corridor, with more expected in the near future. Again, these only work if they are properly closed!
  • Bear canisters are an option for hikers, as they're smaller, and can be carried in a backpack. 
  • Hoisting, or suspending, attractants is always an option! When in doubt, use a rope and a strong tree to get your attractants up off the ground out of reach!

IMPORTANT: Never, ever store attractants in your tent, or on your raft, or anywhere other than one of the four places listed above! Improper storage of food and other attractants is actually against the law.

It's so incredibly necessary for everyone to do their part to ensure black bears are safe while people safely adventure outdoors, and the Lower Rogue River is no exception. The RRSNF, along with our partners at the Bureau of Land Management's Medford District and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, are striving to reduce the number of human-bear interactions on this stretch of river, with the mantra of "A fed bear is a dead bear" being a very real solution to problematic wildlife. Habituated bears can become dangerous to humans, and unfortunately, can be killed when there are enough reports of the same bear coming into camps and scavenging for food. Help the bears by being a part of the solution, and not part of the problem!

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