SHERIDAN — A four-year-old male black bear was euthanized in the Bighorn National Forest Sunday after he returned to a human inhabited site for a second feeding from a camper.
The incident occurred in the Dayton Gulch area during the evening hours.
“In most situations, bears will avoid humans,” District Ranger Clarke McClung wrote in a media release following the encounter. “But bears can become aggressive when searching for food.
“Once a bear receives a food reward, it becomes habituated to humans and will usually return to the same place or look for another campsite or garbage can,” he added. “That’s a death sentence for the bear.”
Black bears roam throughout the forest and are unlikely to interact with humans under most circumstances. Rewards from people, however, can cause bears to associate people with food.
Following last weekend’s incident, forest managers are reminding visitors to keep a clean camp by storing food, garbage, toiletries and stoves in closed vehicles or bear-resistant containers.
Additionally, campers are reminded never to put food scraps in their campfire or keep odor emitting substances in their tents. Bears can target motor oil, insect repellent, liquor and a wide array of other scents.
Visitors should also stay alert, make noise and carry bear spray while traveling through the forest.
In a statement to The Sheridan Press, Dayton Game Warden Dustin Shorma said encounters between bears and humans are often the result of human negligence.
“Conflicts with humans are mostly the fault of the human and not the bear,” he said. “Bears are hardwired to do what their stomachs tell them. People may leave out things that they think wouldn’t attract a bear, but even an empty cooler can become an attractant if there has been food in it.”
People who experience conflicts with bears should report the incidents to the local game warden or U.S. Forest Service office. Brochures with instructions on proper food storage and clean camping techniques are available at Bighorn National Forest and Wyoming Game and Fish Department offices.