Encounters with black bears have begun early in the White Mountain National Forest.

That’s prompting forest officials to alert the camping public and back-country visitors and recreationists and to educate them on proper food storage to try to curb the problem.

“We have already begun to see an increase with bear incidents reported in campgrounds and in the back country,” Colleen Mainville, forest spokeswoman, said Thursday in a news release.

Mainville said Friday by email that the bear encounters are happening in the New Hampshire side of the forest.

“We are really hoping to get out in front of this situation before it gets busy this summer,” she said. “I haven’t heard anything about any incidents in Maine yet. The campgrounds are scattered, as well as the back country.”

Forest service personnel are stepping up compliance controls for food storage areas where bears have been sighted.


“Visitors who fail to store food properly may be issued warnings or fined, depending on the circumstances,” Mainville said. “It is your responsibility to ensure your safety and that of future campers by not purposefully or inadvertently feeding bears.”

According to one report, a bear tried to enter a tent, while another was searching the back of pickup trucks looking for food.

“Although many visitors and campers never encounter a bear, the forest is their home and bears can quickly become habituated to human food,” Mainville said.

“Improperly stored food not only attracts bears to people currently camping at a site, but lets the bear know that it can find food at that campsite in the future,” she said. “The bear may return to the site when other families are recreating there, so it is vital that you keep a clean campsite to ensure bears and other animals don’t forage for your food.”

People are advised to properly store all food, including drink containers, condiments such as ketchup and mustard and empty food wrappers.

“Too many times, visitors believe they have stored their food safely, but in reality have left it within a bear’s reach,” Mainville said.


Read the rules and signs about bears posted at campgrounds and trail heads, and follow the instructions on how to properly store food.

All White Mountain National Forest offices and visitor centers have free bear-proof food containers that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Bears that get too used to people may have to be trapped and relocated or even killed.

“Remember, ‘A fed bear is a dead bear,’” she said. “It is your responsibility to ensure your safety and that of future campers by not purposefully or inadvertently feeding bears.”

Here are some reminders:

* Always keep a clean camp.

* Don’t leave any food, including condiments, out when not in use.


* Store food in bear-resistant units, hard-shelled vehicles or car trunks.

* Keep sleeping areas, tents and sleeping bags free of food and odor such as toothpaste or deodorant.

* Don’t sleep in clothes you cooked or handled fish or game in.

* Never bury or burn food waste.

* If camping in the back country, hang your food bag at least 10 feet off the ground and 5 feet out from a tree limb that could support a bear, or better yet, pack and use bear-resistant containers.

* If possible in back-country areas, place sleeping tents at least 100 yards from food storage and cooking areas.


For more information on dealing with black bears, visit the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department website at wildnh.com/Wildlife/Somethings_Bruin.htm.

For information about the White Mountain National Forest visit: www.fs.usda.gov/whitemountain. Information is also available on informational kiosks and from campground hosts.

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