Bears in Mammoth
This isn't a country bear jamboree, Gentle Ben or Yogi. These are real black bears that want your food. When backcountry users leave food out where bears can smell or see it, the bears will go for the food, and bypass their natural food sources. Once food is found in a car, campsite or backpack, the bears keep coming back to raid that supply. The result is a damaged car, a trashed campsite, or a torn-up backpack. Fines may be issued and the Forest Service Rangers may tow cars for improper food storage. Imagine your horror when you leave that wrapper of jerky or McDonald's carelessly in your car, and you return to see the door looks like it was opened with a can opener. This is true even in housing complexes which is why you must lock all dumpsters.
The bears we're talking about are the American Black Bear (Ursus Americanas). Although these bears can be any shade of brown, from very dark to blonde, they are all Black Bears. The California Grizzly has been extinct (more than 65 years, the last one being shot in Tulare County in 1922.)
Bears are active in Mammoth. We really do have Steve our "bear whisperer" to watch our population and make sure they do not get out of hand...the bears, not the locals! There is an ordinance in the Inyo National Forest effective within the John Muir, Ansel Adams, Golden Trout, Hoover, Boundary Peak, Inyo Mountains and South Sierra Wilderness areas of the forest. It prohibits possessing or storing any food or refuse unless it is stored in a bear-proof container or in another manner designed to keep bears from gaining access to the food or refuse.
If you encounter a bear at your campground or property complex, do not antagonize or throw things at the bear. Use pots and pans and bang them together to make a loud sound. That is usually enough to make them run. If they get too close to you, don't move quickly as they are faster than you, but try and remain still and as tall or big as you can. They're looking for food, not humans. Once they leave, notify local rangers of the incident so it can be recorded and monitor further activity.
INYO CAMPGROUND FOOD STORAGE REGULATIONS
- Federal regulations require that all food be stored in metal food storage lockers when available, at all times. Many campgrounds on the Inyo National Forest have food storage lockers at each campsite. In areas where no food storage locker is available, keep your food in your trunk, covered and out of sight. If you do not have a trunk, keep the food covered and out of sight on the floor of the car.
- Food and food-related items must be stored in food storage lockers (or in the trunk of your car if applicable) at ALL times except when food is being prepared or eaten. Bears may enter campsites during the day, even when people are present. Keep food locker doors closed and latched at all times.
- Bears have an extraordinarily keen sense of smell. They are attracted to and will eat anything with an odor: for example, toothpaste, soap, sunscreen, wrappers, drinks, baby wipes, deodorant and water bottle containers. Store all these items with your food.
- Dispose of garbage frequently in dumpsters and cans. Do not leave any garbage in your campsite, especially at night.
- Keep your car's interior clean and free of clutter. This will reduce the chance of a bear mistaking an article for food. (Storing food out of site within a vehicle can work in some low bear activity areas, however there is no guarantee that bears will not break in to access food or other scented items.) Child car seats should be removed from the vehicle and placed outside on the ground since they often have residual food smells. A bear will tear open your car door if it smells even a food wrapper.
- Do not leave any garbage in your campsite, especially at night.
- Avoid the need to leave food at the trailhead.
BACKCOUNTRY FOOD STORAGE
Bear-resistant food canisters are mandatory May 25 - October 31 for all campers and overnight hikers. At other times bear canisters are highly recommended.
In the past the counter-balance method of hanging food sacs over a branch worked in many areas and is still an acceptable method of securing your food in some areas. However be warned, Bears being highly intelligent and tenacious creatures may figure out ways to get to your food. You must be prepared to defend your food and repeatedly scare bears away from camp. Younger (lighter) bears have been witnessed punching on hung food bags from above, to release the contents on the ground, like candy falling from a broken pinata.
Proper food storage makes the difference between a wild bear and a bear that must be killed because of your negligence. We try not to harm them, please do your part.