If you want to kill a bear, let it eat human food lying on the ground or easily accessible at your campsite. Bears that “steal” food, even if it’s left unattended and in the open, are shot and killed because they’re classified as “problem bears.” They’re blamed, even if hikers and campers fail to take the most basic precautions of hanging a bear bag at night or storing their food in bear canisters where required.
I hang a bear bag to protect the bears, not to protect my food from the bears.
While I’d like to believe that US campers and backpackers know enough not to feed bears and other wildlife human food, the evidence doesn’t indicate that they do. I can’t decide whether it’s ignorance, plain laziness or the misguided belief that campsites and shelters are immune to bear invasions because bears are afraid of sleeping people.
More tragic perhaps, are people who hang bear bags, but don’t bother to lift them very far off the ground. What’s up with that?
I asked the hikers who hung these bags why they did such a poor job of it and they responded by shrugging and saying they’d try to do better next time. I felt comfortable approaching them about it because we’d been hiking the same section of the Appalachian Trail for a few days and kept running into them. It really caught me off guard, since all of them are experienced section hikers with years of backpacking, search and rescue, and mountaineering under their belts.
I don’t get it. Why don’t they care about the bears as much as me?