Glade Park & Pinon Mesa
August 19, 2011
Wildlife officials have announced that the Mud Springs campground on Pinon Mesa has been closed till Sept. 2, to accommodate the needs of some black bears who are hanging out there looking for snacks. They are unafraid of humans, so there is concern for the safety of the campers. It seems the bears have priority over humans.
According to an article in The Daily Sentinel, The Division of Wildlife is hopeful that they can "condition the bears to return to natural food sources. They must think that bears have very short memories. They also have very good olfactory glands, and are sure to return when they smell human delicacies again. Unfortunately a favorite campground has been turned over to the bears instead of dealing with the problem realistically. For more about my bear opinions please scroll down.
Don't make a good bear go bad!
"Bear Canyon" was part of the summer range for the Moorland ranch. What made it a little piece of heaven was a creek dotted with beaver ponds stocked with trout. Our family spent many happy times fishing that stream. We would usually make a camp fire and fry the fresh trout shortly after they flipped out of the water. I thought all trout tasted that good, until years later when I ordered one in a restaurant. Not even close!
Anyway, in that canyon we would see bear sign: claw marks on quakies, "rice and raisins" feces piles, and rarely a sighting of a bear's behind heading up through the trees.
One summer the spring at the cabin went dry, and we moved down to Bear Canyon where springs fed the creek all summer. We had a tiny green camp trailer. My brother Ron slept out under the awning, and the rest of us packed inside. Ron is still around. Even living in black bear habitat we had no trouble with the bears coming into camp. They didn't mess with us and we didn't mess with them.
What has changed? The bears on Piñon Mesa, and elsewhere, do not seem to be so shy anymore. They come into campgrounds and snoop around for food. Though black bears can usually be scared off, a few tales of attacks (none that I know of in this area) make the prospect of a bear encounter worthy of concern (ok, scary!) The experts tell us how rare these attacks are, but statistics can seem irrelevant if you are facing down a hungry black bear. Maybe he just wants to see what's in the cooler, but will he settle for that?
The years when habitat is great can come back to haunt us. The bear population increases...then a drought comes along. When natural bear chow gets scarce they start seeking out new menu items, and taking more risks. Bears like many of the same things we do, and once they get accustomed to the delicacies connected with humans, they are pretty much doomed. Three strikes and they are out.
It seems like a good idea to transplant problem bears to more remote areas. At least it is a good idea for the area the bear is REMOVED from. But truly isolated places are pretty rare anymore. Suddenly a bear with bad habits rips open someone's mountain cabin, feasts on a newborn lamb, or acts threatening toward campers. Depending on how bad the bear is, it can be a rude awakening for unsuspecting locals.
When bear populations increase beyond the ability of the habitat to provide natural bear chow, and they start roaming city streets, there is always the suggestion that they be transported back to the forest, and fed there. That would just artificially support population increases that are not based on naturally available food. And continue to encourage dead beat bears that think that mankind owes them a living, or else...
A more reasonable solution is to make more bear hunting licenses available when populations increase. For those who think that is inhumane, try starving to death. That is said to be the worst way to die. Hunting serves as a way to humanely control wildlife populations, and preserve habitat for a healthy population.
The other thing we have control over is to not supply snack food, so that a good bear is not tempted to go bad.
The links above provide information on bear proofing campsites and homes; advice on how to deal with encounters; and other beary good advice.
Opinions About Bear Issues
Yup, I am in fact still around, none the worse for the summer in Bear Canyon...actually, that summer (1959) was about as good as it got.
Uncle Monte's Bear Stories
Grand Valley Times, Moab, Utah August 1, 1913
Monte Moreland of Piñon Mesa killed a cinnamon bear on upper Piñon Mesa Tuesday. The animal weighed 475 pounds after dressing and was one of the largest killed this season in that section. Mr. Moreland has been after bear for several weeks. Bear seem to be very plentiful on the mesa this year and have been doing some damage to stock. --- Grand Junction Sentinel
The rest of the story?