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Contoversial Bear Repellant Techniques

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Contoversial Bear Repellant Techniques

Postby Hetchy » Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:42 pm

Okay, first of all I must say I firmly believe in using an approved bear resistant canister in places they are required.
I have met some folks that do not.
I am curious if the technique they use has any merit ,or if anyone has heard of it before.
What they do is put food in an OP sack (Odor proof) and surround it with Moth balls kept in tobacco sacks. (I am not kidding)
I know this sounds crazy to me as well. :-k
Aside from the ethical issue with not properly storing food and the resulting destruction of a bear that get sthe food.. Does a chemical repellant approach have any merit?
My thinking is that an Ursack is so close to being an approved method of food storage and has many advantages over a bear canister from the human perpective. If something as simple as mothballs could further repel a bear could it have possibilities if used in conjunction with an OP sack inside and Ursack?
Once again, I am not suggesting anyone improperly store their food.
The fact is that some people are using untested alternative techniques.
With the dissolution of the SBBIG (Sierra Black Bear Interagency group) approval of food storage methods is now decided by.. who?
Is testing into new and perhaps better ways of keeping bears safe from our food going on someplace?
I am asking all this because I am going to be hiking the AT soon from georgia to Maine. Bear canisters are not required or carried by anyone there. Bears do get people's food every year but from what i can find it is nowhere near the problem of Yosemite Valley etc.
personally I am considering using an Ursack minor for protection from rodents on the AT. I will be sleeping on top of my food just like i did everywhere on the PCT (Except Seki and yosemite) and the entire CDT except Yellowstone and Glacier(where they still hang food and canisters are NOT an accepted way to store food.)

Anyhow what about chemical means to repel bears? Pepperspray seems to be successful in places like Mammoth. Could Mothballs have a similar effect?
The problem I have is that I have no morally acceptable way to test the theory. But if it came down to using nothing or using a bag of mothballs.. I dunno.. thats why i am asking Y'all.
:bear: :snipe: A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear
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Re: Contoversial Bear Repellant Techniques

Postby rlown » Tue Dec 07, 2010 10:23 pm

after reading that, you better learn to play the banjo.. odor proof? tobacco sack?

find out what the locals do, or what's required.. I love my can..
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Re: Contoversial Bear Repellant Techniques

Postby Hetchy » Tue Dec 07, 2010 11:59 pm

The folks on the AT hang their food in the same shelter they sleep in. Generally only to keep mice at bay. Canisters are unheard of on the AT. Many people bear hang their food when they camp away from the shelters. Many more simply sleep atop or near their food.
The problem, as I see it, is similar to what happens to habituated bears.
The humans are learning that the bears simply do not challenge thru hikers so long as the following criteria are followed:
Do not camp near water
Do not eat where you sleep
Usually we only stop to sleep and stay in one place for 8 hours
Never camp at traiheads or campgrounds
Camp away from the trail

As thru hikers on the PCT we have our bear canisters shipped to Kennedy Meadows Store (South) and carry them to Carson pass or in my case Echo Lake where we ship it home. Other than that we sleep on our food in stealth camps as detailed above. The success of this strategy is what drives the practice.
In my research for the AT it seems the common wisdom is exactly the same as the PCT. A large number of folks sleep with their food. Some bear hang their food as well.

The problem as I see it is that there is no longer a governing body making progress in regards to bear canisters. Thru hikers simply carry the bear cans only long enough to be clear of the required areas because 1. Bear canisters are heavy 2. bear canisters are bulky.
If an Ursack were proven to protect bears from our food with an equal success rate to a bear canister hikers might carry them for a longer stretch of the trail.
From what I understand the latest Ursack "All White" S29 is very close to providing the equivalent protection of a hard sided approved canister at half the weight. The problem is there is no longer an SBBIG to test and approve them. In fact as far as i can tell there is no way to make any progress on the bear resistant canisters which themselves are not 100% successful at preventing bears from getting human food.
Perhaps no method will ever be 100% successful but if we stop the testing process for new devices we will never achieve it.
Like i said, I am not telling people to store food in anything but an approved bear resistant canister in the required area. I am just pointing out that given the choice between people carrying nothing and people carrying an Ursack which would be better for the bears outside the canister required areas?
About 350 thru hikers cross the Sierra on the PCT every year. All the hikers I met at KM had a bear canister but I heard tell that some did not simply beacuse they were already carrying 10 days of food and the extra 3 lbs seemed prohibitive to them.( I know they are being selfish bastards.. as I said I did carry a canister myself) Wouldn't we rather they use something to safeguard the bears from their food?
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Re: Contoversial Bear Repellant Techniques

Postby fishmonger » Fri Dec 10, 2010 10:08 am

take a few permits away, fine them. My experience is that about one in five doesn't use a can, and most of them are proud of it. Some sort of PCT hiker's badge of honor - you qualify if you manage to get through the Sierras without a can and leeching most of your food from hiker barrels, while spending your food budget on booze at VVR and ice cream at Mammoth...

I know, I know... :-({|=
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Re: Contoversial Bear Repellant Techniques

Postby oldranger » Fri Dec 10, 2010 10:19 am

Everything works until an aggressive, educated bear shows up. Then an approved canister or a bear box are the only proven techniques. Properly (the key) counterbalanced food, with an aggressive, take no prisoners defense by a light sleeping backpacker has worked for me, too.

Mike
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Re: Contoversial Bear Repellant Techniques

Postby The Other Tom » Fri Dec 10, 2010 10:35 am

Hetchy,
I would echo what OR said. Mothballs will probably work until the bears start associating food with mothballs. Then it's game over.
As you have reasoned, I would recommend the Ursack on the AT. Too many people eat in shelters and mice/rodents are a problem (in shelters). Elsewhere, you could have problems with raccoons, skunks, etc. So definitely use an Ursack.
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Re: Contoversial Bear Repellant Techniques

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:34 pm

Do some research on the internet regarding mothballs. I would not put mothballs near my food unless you are sure you can totally seal the food from the mothball chemicals. I personally would not use mothballs at all. Their smell nearly nuseates me. Breathing the fumes really is not good for you.
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Re: Contoversial Bear Repellant Techniques

Postby cmon4day » Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:48 pm

oldranger wrote:Everything works until an aggressive, educated bear shows up. Then an approved canister or a bear box are the only proven techniques. Properly (the key) counterbalanced food, with an aggressive, take no prisoners defense by a light sleeping backpacker has worked for me, too.

Mike


I concur with Old Ranger regarding a well educated bear.

One trip into 10 Lakes in Yosemite years ago we hung our food and a bear came in and got it. I know you are thinking of course he got your food. But, this was the perfect hang. Large diameter tree, on a slope, 20' up on a perfect branch, well out from the trunk.

Now this bear came into camp in the early evening and we were aggressively defending our food by making noise, throwing rocks, and yelling at him. He blew right past us and climbed the tree. When he got to the level of the food he held onto the trunk with one arm and reached out to grab the food with the other and couldn't. The next thing I saw absolutely blew me away. The bear launched himself out from the tree, grabbed the hung food, fell 20' to the ground, and picked up the stuff sacks, and ran away.

In the morning we went out and looked around and there were wrappers, aluminum foil, and leftovers all over the place. He totally had a field day with our food. I couldn't believe what I saw. After that experience, I became a fan of the bear canister.

With that said, I still follow the advise from Harold Bassey (sp?), park ranger from SEKI,(Old Ranger correct me if I'm wrong) who believes you should defend your food by throwing rocks at the bears. The theory is that bears will develop a fear of humans. So next time you see a bear, throw rocks at him.
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Re: Contoversial Bear Repellant Techniques

Postby dave54 » Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:54 pm

I have been looking for a U.S source for these:

http://www.ursusinternational.org/en/bangers.html
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Re: Contoversial Bear Repellant Techniques

Postby gary c. » Fri Dec 10, 2010 11:29 pm

The "Bear Banger" sounds to me like it might have a bit of a fire risk if used in a forested or grassy area.
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Re: Contoversial Bear Repellant Techniques

Postby oldranger » Sat Dec 11, 2010 8:41 am

C4D,

The name doesn't ring a bell. Maybe George recognizes the name. Was he a BC ranger? Boy that was one aggresive bear. Never encountered one that didn't retreat from a full on onslaught. Trouble with all of us (including me) is that we all believe in our techniques until they don't work and generally they work because we don't usually encounter a bear. My respect for an educated bears ability to track down food increased markedly the time one found the single can of beer I stashed in a creek, under a rock. On second thought maybe I shouldn't have much respect. The bear left the can along the creek with puncture holes without disposing of it properly and the beer was Hamms Draft (I was into quantity over quality then).

Mike
Last edited by oldranger on Sat Dec 11, 2010 8:48 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Contoversial Bear Repellant Techniques

Postby oldranger » Sat Dec 11, 2010 8:46 am

Re: Banger

Sounds like a bit of overkill for sierra bc bears. Rangers use similar techniques in Yosemite Valley and the bear problems don't disappear. Also seems like an accident ready to happen without significant training. I have visions of someone overshooting the target and putting a round on a neighbors tent.

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