Black bear activity has increased this summer at Curt Gowdy State Park, located about 30 miles east of Laramie, and park visitors are urged to practice bear-safe habits while camping, hiking and biking.
According to park superintendent Patrick Harrington, the park sits on the edge of bear habitat in the Laramie Range, and visits from black bears are not unheard of. However, more bears than usual have been spotted at the park or in nearby neighborhoods this year.
“It’s not uncommon to see a bear or two a year in the park,” he said. “This year we’ve seen a few more than that.”
Cheyenne game warden Spencer Carstens said as many as six bears have been spotted in the area on trail cameras this year and an adult male has been relocated.
“We’ve already removed one bear, but there are several more active in the area,” he said.
Harrington said hikers and bikers may encounter a black bear while on the trail, especially in the vicinity of the Aspen Grove Trailhead on the west side of the park or near water. Trail users should keep dogs on a leash, make noise as they travel and pack out all their trash.
“Take your trash with you,” he said. “Don’t dispose of anything that has a good smell along the trail.”
Campers, meanwhile, should practice bear-safe habits such as keeping a clean camp and storing food, garbage, pet food, cooking equipment and other attractants inside a vehicle, hard-sided camper or bear box.
A new rule implemented this summer on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests requires similar practices for visitors to developed recreation sites on national forest lands in southeast Wyoming.
All of southeast Wyoming is black bear country, from Laramie Peak to the Pole Mountain area, Curt Gowdy State Park, the Snowy Range, the Sierra Madres and North Park.
Game and Fish spokesperson Robin Kepple said bears have a keen sense of smell and are strongly attracted to human food, garbage, livestock feed and game meat, especially as dry summer weather decreases the availability of natural food sources. If they succeed in obtaining food, they’ll likely become “food-conditioned.” They’ll be less likely to avoid humans and more destructive in their attempts to gain more human food.
“Being careless with any food or attractant can cost the bear its life. That’s the bottom line,” she said. “We end up having to kill bears that become used to being around people.”
Harrington said open garbage cans have been removed from the park, while Dumpsters now have straps across them to prohibit bears from opening them.
“We’ve been managing (the bears) by removing that food reward, and it seems like bears are moving out of the park,” he said. “We think we’re being effective in that management strategy at this point.”
He said protecting bears and visitors alike requires everyone to pitch in.
“If everyone does their part to keep their camps bear-wise and the overall park clean, we can co-exist with all species in the area safely,” he said.
For more information about camping and hiking in bear country, go to wgfd.wyo.gov/Wildlife-in-Wyoming.