Philmont Bear Information
Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2002 06:10:03 -0500
Subject: Philmont bears-info
Although little has been mentioned in several months, I believe several
items need to be addressed about Philmont bears.
- Philmont is home to 150-200 black bears (depending on who you ask),
Philmont being 214 sq mi, you can do the math
- Philmont has some of the strictest bear policies in the country. When
comparing the rate on incident to national parks, the policies seem to be
working. Take heart of what your rangers tell you. Your chances of
having a problem (w/ a bear) are slim, but by deveating from the bear
procedures you do increase the potential. Remember you're there for ten
days, the bears are there for 365
- There are bears across the entire ranch. Some 'veterans' believe that
there really are not that many bears in the South country (ie-slack off),
you may not see them, but they are around.
- Don't slack off on your bear procedures just because you have not seen
a bear. Many of the bear problems are associated with crews who are on
day 6 or later in their trek.
- Bears are extremely inquisitive and will try to eat anything that
smells different. They may not like something (bleach, fuel can-complete
with fuel, batteries), but they will try it anyway and let their
gastrointestinal tract figure it out later.
- Bears have arguably one of the stongest olfactory (sense of smell)
systems in the world. A bear's sense of smell may be several times that
of a dog's (I would love seeing a drug sniffing bear). Yes, bears can
smell unopened packages or even cans. Burning trash with your camp stove
doesn't eliminate odor, in fact it may enhance it. And YES, bears can
smell food/trash that has been dumped in latrines, and YES they will try
to retreive it (even very small amounts)
- If you see a bear at Philmont, enjoy the experience (hopefully it's on
good terms), only about 1/3-1/5 of all crews see a bear. But PLEASE
report the sighting/incident to a staff member (ideally the person who
checks you in at staff camps) as soon as possible. In the long run you
may be saving a bear's life, or helping a scout from being injured.
Philmont employees 2 individuals (Bear Researchers) who keep track on bear
activity and help enforce bear procedures. Each summer there may be
400-800+ bear sightings. The more detailed the description of the bear
and location the better.
- As far as diet goes, Philmont bears consume about ~80% vegetation,
probably another 10-15% insects (lots of crude protien), and another 5-10%
of other (ie-carrion-dead animals), every once in a while they might get a
fawn(they are predators-see next statement). Bears are not overly
industrious creatures, they don't go out of their way to aquire camper
food or trash. They are however very opportunistic, if human foods are
initally easily available, they WILL partake, and they WILL become hooked.
It only takes one mistake for a bear to become hooked, from that point on
Philmont has a potential problem bear.
- There are habituated bears (see so many humans they could care less)
and food conditioned (got food as an "award") bears. By mid-July, there
probably isn't a single bear on Philmont that is not habituated to some
extent. Problems arise when they become food conditioned as well.
Ok, time to start getting off the soap box. Bears are a great part of the
Philmont experience. Just remember in the last 2 years (2000&2001), 7
people (5 campers, 2 other individuals)have recieved minor to moderate
(depending on your definition) injuries from bears (7/~40,000-the odds
really are against you being injured). In nearly every case some type of
"smellable" was found in or near the campsite. Some times the violation
is rather blantant (food wrappers and food in and around a tent), to
hidden and unknown to the crew (previous campsite occupants hiding trash
under rocks or dumping food in the latrines). Remember, there will be
campers there after you, and their saftey could depend on your actions.
Finally, Philmont is not joking with their "A fed bear is a dead bear"
statement. Several bears have been killed and more trapped/relocated in
the last couple of years, in nearly every case the problem started with
campers violating Philmont's bear policies.
PLEASE LISTEN TO YOUR RANGER!!!!!
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