Rock-climbing guide Will Roth and two clients were rappelling near Chapel Pond this summer when a young bear started climbing toward them, scratching its claws against the slabby bedrock. When the bear got to within fifteen feet, Roth tossed a rock and struck it in the shoulder. The bear veered into the woods but soon reappeared at the top of cliff, peering down at the climbers.
Roth suspects that it was one of two cubs that had frequented the same area last year with a mother bear, stealing goodies from climbers’ packs. “It had to know that people meant food,” Roth remarked.
Other climbers also encountered bears in the Chapel Pond area this summer, prompting the state Department of Environmental Conservation to post warning signs.
Now DEC is considering other steps to deal with nuisance bears.
DEC biologist Jim Stickles told the Adirondack Park Agency in August that the department might place steel storage bins or suspend ropes at popular climbing spots. Climbers would place their packs in the bins or hang them from the ropes.
In a move that would affect backpackers, Stickles said DEC also wants to expand bear-canister regulations to the Dix Mountain and Giant Mountain Wilderness Areas, which are separated by a road. Now, bear canisters are required only in the nearby eastern High Peaks Wilderness—from April 1 to November 30. The canisters are used to store food, toiletries, and other items that attract bears.
Stickles said bear incidents have increased in recent years in the Dix and Giant areas. Most of the incidents involving climbers have occurred in the vicinity of the Beer Walls and Chapel Pond Slab in the Dix Mountain Wilderness.
APA Chairman Sherman Craig urged DEC to determine whether the bear-canister requirement should be expanded to other parts of the Forest Preserve before updating the regulations.
Stickles also said DEC wants to forbid the use of Bear Vault and similar canisters in areas where canisters are required. He said these clear polycarbonate canisters don’t always work.
Bear activity peaked in the Dix Mountain Wilderness in July but subsided after DEC killed an aggressive bear that had been frequently spotted near Gill Brook. “It was approaching people on the hiking trails and getting very close to them, and in some cases, cornering them on cliff sides, where they felt they had no other option but to give the bear food and move away,” Stickles said.
Another bear—with a DEC red ear tag—has been reported to be a problem but has not behaved as aggressively toward people.
Click here to read DEC’s advice on reducing human-bear conflicts.