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Forest Service mandates bear-resistant containers in Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness

Jul 14, 2015

Wilderness Ranger Andrew Larson holds a bear proof canister that backpackers are now required to haul in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness.
Credit Marci Krivonen

Too many people are storing food in their tents in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, so the Forest Service is mandating bear resistant containers.

Forest Service District Ranger Karen Shroyer says the decision comes after recent human-bear conflicts in the heavily used wilderness area. It stretches over 160,000 acres and includes the Maroon Bells scenic area.

The emergency order requires backcountry campers to store food, garbage and other smelly items in a hard-sided bear resistant container. The canisters weigh between 2 and 4 pounds and cost about 70 bucks at retailers like the Ute Mountaineer. The store also rents them out.

Before the mandate, Forest Service staff was just encouraging campers to use the canisters. Now if you’re caught, you could get a misdemeanor charge and possibly a $5000 fine. A short stint in prison and an even larger fine is possible for commercial outfitters breaking the rule.