Unsecured food has led to the death of two black bears in Yellowstone National Park this summer, with officials trying to capture a third. The severity of the issue has prompted park officials to issue reminders on the importance on properly storing food.
The problem is “habituation,” according to a park press release. Human food causes bears to lose their fear of people and act boldly enough to be dangerous. That was the case this summer. Both of the black bears killed were habituated and comfortable with people.
One bear bit into an occupied tent in June, bruising a woman's thigh. Her leg was protected by her tent and her thick sleeping bag, but the incident prompted park rangers to set up cameras and a decoy tent. The black bear “aggressively” tore up the shelter and was killed June 11.
In early July, backcountry campers left their food unattended and a black bear ate roughly 10 pounds of their supplies. Despite rangers’ attempts to haze the animal, it repeatedly returned to the site over the coming days and was killed July 10.
A third bear is currently damaging property in search of food at a frontcountry campsite, park officials say, displaying “food-conditioned behavior.” Officials plan to scare off or remove the animal if it returns.
Park officials say there are very few options when dealing with a habituated bear, and the situation often ends with the animal’s death.
Accoring to a park press release, Yellowstone National Park does not typically relocate bears because there are no areas in the park to move the bear where it wouldn’t have the continued opportunity to potentially injure someone and damage property. Surrounding states do not want food-conditioned bears relocated into their jurisdictions. And adult bears have large home ranges, good memories, and could easily return to the original area.
Park officials are encouraging people to stay informed on bear safety.