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Forest Service enacts food storage order in BWCA, Superior National Forest

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Photo by Joe Friedrichs
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Photo by Joe Friedrichs

Effective today, all visitors to Superior National Forest, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, will need to store their food properly to help protect black bears that call the area home and humans who visit the area.

The food storage order is the result of increases in human-bear interactions with negative outcomes, according to the Forest Service. 

The food storage order requires visitors to properly store food unless in the process of eating, preparing or transporting food. Proper storage reduces the chance of bears being rewarded when in campsites, trails, portages, landings or other recreational areas. Proper food storage can be done by using a bear canister or bear-resistant container and placing it 50 feet away from the immediate camping area, or by hanging a food pack at least 12 feet above the ground at all points.

The Forest Service considered enacting the food storage order over the past week as bear interactions continued to increase. Superior National Forest officials say the rise in interactions is the result of more visitors on the landscape and the fact northeastern Minnesota is in an extreme drought, which has led to a poor berry crop and natural food sources for black bears that live in the region.

This year, there are several areas with reoccurring bear sightings and interactions in the BWCA, including recent reports from Rose Lake, Duncan Lake and Daniels Lake in the Middle Gunflint Trail area.

Other areas with abundant bear activity and interactions include the Moose Lake Chain and several campgrounds including Birch Lake, Fall Lake and Fenske Lake on the Kawishiwi Ranger District; and Agnes Lake on the La Croix District.

This year the Forest Service asked the public and employees to report any and all bear interactions. The reports include bears at individual campsites, digging in dumpsters at campgrounds or other facilities, and stealing backpacks. Forest Service officials also point out that not all reports of interactions with bears are negative or a cause for alarm. Reports may also include general bear sightings to help biologists better understand bear travel patterns across Superior National Forest.

In addition to proper food storage, there are other actions that visitors can take in bear-country that help keep bears wild, alive and healthy, including by making sure anything with a scent is properly stored. This includes, but is not limited to, toothpaste, wrappers, lip balm, soap, petroleum products and lotion. 

Disposing of fish remains at least 200 feet from any campsite, portage, trail and shoreline is a requirement in the BWCA and can help reduce bear interactions as well.

Last year the Forest Service implemented a food storage order for a limited number of lakes in the BWCA on the Gunflint District. This year, the agency is enacting a food storage order for the entire Superior National forest. If you have questions about bear resistant food storage, visit the Forest Service’s website.