As a result of perennial bear/human conflicts, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department has issued a written warning to Joseph Paradis, owner of Moose Hillock Campground in Warren, N.H., to address the campground’s garbage storage polices.
Moose Hillock Campground, which also owns and operates a similar facility in Lake George, New York, is a 90-acre campground that abuts the White Mountain National Forest. As is true for all New Hampshire campgrounds, the proper storage of garbage and other food attractants is essential to minimizing conflicts with bears.
“The situation at Moose Hillock has been particularly challenging for the past 14 years, primarily because previous recommendations have not been followed,” said Fish and Game Bear Biologist Andrew Timmins. “The primary attractant at the campground is open dumpsters that bears readily climb into for food. Additionally, unsecured coolers and food at campsites are targeted by bears. Once bears make a habit of foraging in the campground, they become conditioned to human presence and are difficult to scare away. These issues generally start with the open dumpsters and expand to bears raiding campsites.”
Bear activity at Moose Hillock has reached a record level this summer, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the public. Large groups of campers gather daily at the dumpster area to watch multiple bears rummage in the dumpsters. Furthermore, bears are routinely raiding campsites to panhandle and steal food.
“Recently, the Department has received many complaints from members of the public who have become upset and uncomfortable staying at this facility,” said Col. Martin Garabedian, head of N.H. Fish and Game Law Enforcement. “The situation at the campground has become a public safety issue for campers and cannot be tolerated any further.”
Staff from Fish and Game and USDA Wildlife Services have routinely responded to conflicts at Moose Hillock since 2000. The issues have always been the same (open dumpsters), and the recommendations to the campground have always focused on the need to secure the dumpsters with metal tops or an inaccessible barrier fence (e.g., electric fence). Large quantities of bear education materials have been dropped off at the campground in an effort to educate both campground staff and the camping public on how to camp in bear country. Houndsman have been routinely used to chase bears from the campground with dogs to alleviate conflicts. Bears, including a sow with four cubs and single adult male, have been moved from the campground in recent years, in an effort to help the campground alleviate conflicts.
“These efforts have essentially failed, and will continue to fail, because the dumpsters remain open to bears,” said Timmins. “The only long-term solution is to stop the bears from easily accessing foods in the campground, which includes a primary focus on bear-proofing the dumpsters.”
A N.H. Fish and Game Department Administrative Rule (Fis 310.01) states that “no person shall use, place, provide, give, expose, deposit, scatter or distribute any material that results in attracting black bears, after being noticed by the executive director or his designee to cease the activity, because the activity might result in injury to a person, damage to property or create a public nuisance.” Based on this rule, on August 1, 2014, the N.H. Fish and Game Department issued a written warning to Joseph Paradis of the Moose Hillock campground and gave him two weeks to get metal-topped dumpsters (to secure the campground’s dumpsters in a way that is inaccessible to bears).
Staff from N.H. Fish and Game and USDA Wildlife Services have worked successfully with many New Hampshire campgrounds to resolve bear issues. Nearly all these campgrounds now have dumpsters that contain metal tops and doors that can be locked, thereby making them inaccessible to bears. Once the food is shut off, bears move on, and keeping New Hampshire’s wildlife wild benefits everyone.
“This approach has worked because these campgrounds have been willing to make necessary changes. Moose Hillock campground has been different. They have been resistant to changing their approach to garbage storage and have ignored previous recommendations,” said Timmins. “Campgrounds can be ‘bear-proofed,’ but it requires a working, cooperative partnership between the campground and the management agency to be successful.”
For more information on preventing conflicts with black bears, click here.
If you have questions about bear-related problems, you can get advice by calling a toll-free number coordinated jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department: 1-888-749-2327 (1-888-SHY-BEAR).