SHERIDAN — The Bighorn National Forest is loved for its dispersed camping opportunities. Many people benefit from the ability to bring a camper on the forest and leave it up to 14 days before it needs to be moved to a new location. However, please use caution. A camper’s storage compartments were broken into over the Fourth of July holiday week and the owner was a victim of theft. Criminal investigations of the incident are ongoing.
You may want to reconsider leaving valuables unattended. If you choose to leave your property unoccupied on the mountain, there is no reasonable expectation it will be protected from theft or vandalism. Theft is often an opportunist crime and by limiting the opportunity, there is less of a chance of being victimized. Be a good neighbor to other campers, as community watch principles apply in camp areas as well as neighborhoods in town. If you see something, tell a forest employee or law enforcement.
The Bighorn National Forest is also known for its abundant wildlife viewing opportunities. There has been a lot of bear activity and close encounters forest-wide this summer. Some of these bears have been fed or have had access to human food at campsites, homes or lodges. When this happens, bears lose their natural fear of humans and begin seeking people out for food. You don’t have to have small children to make the idea of a bear looking at you for food seem somewhat dangerous.
How could this be prevented? It’s quite simple: put your food, garbage, coolers, pet food and odor attractants such as deodorant and soap in a place bears and other wildlife won’t be able to reach them. If you have a hard-sided camper or vehicle, store your items inside. Some campgrounds have bear lockers; use them if available. Never leave food out unattended. Pick up all litter and dropped food from around campsites. To reduce garbage impacts on campgrounds and developed sites, consider taking your trash home to dispose. This will reduce the cost of garbage collection from the forest and the risk of wildlife getting into it.
While in the backcountry, it is a good idea to cook food at least 100 yards from your sleeping area. Hang items 10-15 feet above ground, at least 4 feet from the top and side supports and at least 100 yards from where you’ll be sleeping. Never dispose of food by throwing it out or burying it where animals can find it. You personally may not be affected by this choice, but the next camper may have unwelcome guests show up.
The Bighorn National Forest does not have a current food storage order in effect, but it is being considered. Please follow these recommendations for your safety, the safety of fellow visitors and wildlife living on the mountain. If you have questions, please contact one of the USFS Bighorn National Forest offices or visit the website, https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/bighorn/home.
Sheridan’s local phone number is 307-674-2600, Greybull’s is 307-765-4435 and Buffalo’s is 307-684-7806.