Thursday, April 19, 2018

How to Do a Bear Hang the Right Way

Cinnamon Black Bear
Wild bears are typically shy animals who want nothing to do with people. They are mostly active during daylight hours, are curious about their environment and react to threats based on the perceived danger just like people do. Black bears usually run away from people or climb up trees to get away from them. Brown bears usually avoid people if they have the option. 
Most negative encounters between people and bears occur as a result of improper food/garbage storage. Bears are attracted by the smells of food; it only takes one successful food/garbage exposure to teach a bear that people can have tasty items around camp, making it likely that a bear will seek out people & camping areas again for something to eat. The majority of negative bear encounters occur when bears who have become habituated to looking for people's food/garbage end up in close proximity to people and a person and/or bear is injured or killed as a result. 
Brown bear mother and cubs, Denali National Park
Being responsible in bear country by keeping your food and trash secure and away from  wildlife could affect your safety, the safety of others, and could even save a bear's life.
Some examples of bear habituation:
A woman in the Sierras leaves her backpack on a picnic table and goes to the restroom on the other side of the campground. The backpack has candy bars, jerky, and a sandwich inside along with a rain jacket and other items. When the woman comes back from the restroom she finds a black bear mom and her cub pulling items out of his pack and eating the food. She yells at the bears to try and make them leave but the bears keep going through her pack for another 10 minute before they leave the campground. The woman is mad that they ruined her pack and ripped her new rain jacket.
Brown Bear, Tongass National Forest 
A family in the Boundary Waters leave their kitchen bag at a portage while they carry two other bags and their canoe to the next lake.  When they come back to get the kitchen bag they find it gone. After looking around they find it off trail in the bushes, most of the food has been eaten/damaged and there are wrappers and bags spread out over the area. The family picks up the mess and decides that they will have to head back out early the next morning as they don't have enough food for their trip anymore.
A man in the Rocky Mountains brings frozen chicken on a camping trip to make for dinner. He decides to leave it out on the picnic table to thaw for half an hour while he works on getting his trailer set up. He hears a noise and comes out of his trailer to see a black bear eating the chicken, bag and all. He yells at the bear and chases it out of the campsite and is unhappy that he has to find something else to eat for dinner.  
Tips for preventing problems with bears while camping:
  • Check local regulations for bear safe food storage. Some agencies have specific instructions for how to hang food to keep it away from their bears.
  • Keep your camp & cooking equipment clean.
  • Keep food/toiletries, and other scented items out of sleeping areas & store them properly (in a bear hang/ in a bear box/ in a bear canister/ etc.
  • Never leave packs more than a couple of steps away from you. If a bear comes around the corner will you be able to get your pack safely?
  • Sleep at least 200 feet away from where you cook and cook at least 200 feet away from where you hang your food/garbage.
  • Seal your wet trash in a designated roll top bag or ziplock to make your trash less smelly. 
Equipment you'll need to hang your food/garbage:
  • 2 or 3 50ft-100ft lengths of cord appropriate for the weight you'll be hanging (paracord will work for lightweight hangs, for heavier hangs be sure to get at least 3/8 inch or 10mm cord) From past experience paracord shouldn't be used with bags weighing more than ~25 pounds, they can give you wicked rope burns due to minimal surface area & will snap with repeated use/heavier bags. Good rope is expensive but you won't need to replace it nearly as often.
  • Carabiners (the kind that have weight ratings printed on them, not the decorative kind; these will break and potentially drop heavy bags of food on your head)
  • Optional: pulleys to help lift heavy bags
CLOTHESLINE HANG: (works well for larger/heavier bags)
Working on a clothesline bear hang
  • First find two large trees 12 or more feet apart with large branches 16 or more feet up.
  • Take the center of the line you are using, tie a small loop and attach a carabiner (you can add multiple loops & carabiners as needed for your hang just make sure they are at least 6 feet away from the trees on either side)
  • Loop your bag hang ropes through the carabiner(s)
  • Tie a rock to the end of your hang rope and throw it over one of the branches you've selected
  • Tie that end off securely on that tree
  • Next tie a rock on the other end of the hang rope and throw it over the other branch you've selected
  • Making sure you don't loose your hang rope(s), pull the end tight and tie it off on the other tree making the top line as tight as possible.
  • Attach your bag to the carabiner, pull on the bag rope until the bag is at least 12 feet up, making sure that the bag hangs down 4 feet from the topline), tie off your bag rope as high up as you can (you can use the same trees or different trees but try and keep the line high enough that a bear wouldn't walk into it while walking by) 
Clothesline Hang (US Forest Service)
COUNTERBALANCE HANG: (works best with 2 small, equally-weighted bags)
  • Find a tree with a live, down-sloping branch. When you are 10 feet away from the trunk, the branch should still be approximately 20 feet off the ground.
  • Divide food/garbage into 2 equally weighted bags.
  • Tie a rock to the end of your hang rope and throw the end over the branch 10 feet away from the trunk.
  • Tie the rope to one food/garbage bag and pull the other end until the bag is up to the branch.
  • Tie the second bag to the other end of the rope as high up as you can. Put the rest of the rope in the bag but leave out a loop and tie it to help get the bags back down later.
  • push the lower bag up as far as you can, use a stick to push it up more if needed. Bags should be equal height and at least 12 feet off the ground.
  • To get the bags back down again use a large stick or branch to reach up and grab the loop you made earlier. Pull down until you have the first bag then remove the extra rope and lower the second bag.
Counterbalance Hang (National Park Service)

SINGLE TREE AND PULLEY HANG: (works better with smaller bags)
  • Find a suitable tree with a branch 20 feet up
  • Tie your pulley onto the end of your tree rope and thread a bag rope through the pulley.
  • Tie a rock to your tree rope (non-pulley end) and throw it over the branch you picked out. Pull the rope until the pulley is hanging down about 7 feet.
  • Secure your tree rope to the tree trunk. 
  • Tie one end of the bag rope (threaded through the pulley) to your food.
  • Pull the other end of the bag rope at a diagonal away from the tree raising the food bag away from the tree.
  • Secure the bag rope to another tree, a stump or a rock making sure that your food bag is twelve feet off the ground and six feet away from the main tree.
Single Tree and Pulley (US Forest Service)

OVER A BRANCH HANG: (often difficult to find suitable tree):
  • Find a tree with a LARGE branch at least 16 feet up that will hold the weight of your bag 6 feet out from the trunk. (hard to find)
  • Tie a rock to the end of your rope.
  • Throw the end over the large branch 6 feet away from the trunk.
  • Tie the end to your pack, pull your pack up at least 12 feet off the ground while maintaining at least 4 feet down from the branch to your bag.
  • Tie the rope off as high as you can to prevent a bear from finding/chewing on your rope. 
  • over a branch hang in use
  • You can also use a pulley on the end of the rope to prevent damage to the branch and make taking down your bag easier. 

Over A Branch (US Forest Service)
REMEMBER: Whatever method you use, your lines will likely sag as you first put weight on them and again after the line has had time to stretch. You'll need to tighten and re-tie them a few times to make sure you maintain the distance requirements for a successful bear hang. 

Do you have any bear hang stories or techniques you'd like to share? We'd love to see them in the comments below.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Why it is so important to keep your food & trash away from wildlife

Storing your food and trash properly can have life and death consequences to the wildlife in the area you are visiting. 

Let Wildlife Stay Wild
Squirrels, bears, raccoons, skunks, deer, etc. are wild animals who all have natural food sources that sustain them during the different seasons. They learn when they are little where to go look for these foods and may migrate during the year to feed on different foods depending on their abundance. When these animals find human food they learn that people can be a source of food too. This may lead them to revisit or seek out new areas with people in their search for food. The behavior can interfere with normal migration patterns, make them less afraid of people, and significantly increase the chance that they will have a negative encounter with a human that ends badly for the animal. Negative encounters for people may range from your lunch being eaten, your backpack chewed up, your tent nibbled on, to being bitten, attacked and injured or killed. Negative encounters for animals could include being hit by a car, being shot, getting injured by people or domestic animals, or being trapped, relocated or euthanized.     

Keeping your food stored properly can protect you as well as the local wildlife!

Food and Trash Can Kill
Some types of food can actually kill animals that aren't equipped to digest them. Deer and birds can die from eating too much food with a flour base such as bread. Empty containers, six pack rings, and other discarded trash can be a serious hazard to wildlife too. Animals can get their head or feet trapped in containers or trash leading to suffocation, serious injury or death. The packaging your food is in may also be eaten by hungry animals. This plastic, styrofoam, foil, cardboard, metal, etc. may still smell like food  enough to be appetizing to a wild animal. Unfortunately these items are indigestible and may lead to intestinal blockages, entangled limbs, lacerations, and death.  

Feeding a cute squirrel at the campground may seem harmless at first. That squirrel through will likely start looking to every visitor for a meal and when somebody doesn't feed him he will start getting into backpacks, tents, and cars looking for food. He could even get aggressive and attack somebody if he thinks they have food. 

Be a wildlife advocate and help educate others about the importance of properly storing your food and trash.

Tips on how to manage your food and trash from 
the National Park Service:

In Picnic Areas and Campgrounds
  • Always keep your food within arm's reach and don't turn your back to your food.
  • In some parks, food may be stored inside your car as long as it is out of sight, with windows completely closed, and only during daylight hours; never store food in a pickup truck bed or strapped to the outside of a vehicle. In other parks, all food must be removed from your car and stored in lockers. Remember to clear your car of food wrappers, crumbs in baby seats, baby wipes, and even canned food and drinks.

  • Secure your food, garbage, and other scented items immediately upon arriving at your campsite.
  • Do NOT store food in your tent or backpack.
  • Wash dirty dishes immediately.
  • Do NOT attempt to burn excess food, tea bags, or coffee grounds in a fire. Burning organic matter completely requires a very hot fire, hotter than most campfires. Partially burned matter will still draw wildlife into camps.

In Hotel Rooms and Cabins
  • Keep all food inside your room. If you are not in the room, the windows and doors must be closed. Bears can easily break into cabins through an open door or window.

While Backpacking
  • Check with the park before taking food into the backcountry. Some parks allow or require portable containers designed for backpackers; others provide food lockers.
  • Choose foods that are compact, compressible, high calorie, and lacking in strong odors, such as rice, tortillas, jerky, pastas, nuts, dried fruits, peanut butter, and protein bars.
  • Take food out of its original package. This allows you to fit more food in your canisters and reduce garbage. Use resealable bags instead of bottles, jars, and cans. Force air out of bags or packages.
  • Carry food and garbage in plastic bags to contain crumbs and grease that can leave odors in your backpack.
  • Bear-resistant containers only work if they are closed and locked. Be sure to keep the container closed and locked even while you're around your campsite.

  • Place containers on flat, level ground 100 feet or more from your campsite.
  • Do NOT place containers near cliffs or any water source, as a bear may knock the container around or roll it down a hill trying to open it.
  • Do NOT attach anything to containers. Ropes attached to containers enable a bear to carry it away.
  • Place pots and pans on top of containers as a bear alarm.
  • Learn how to pack your container efficiently.
  • Do NOT dispose of food waste in the wilderness. Pack out all uneaten food and food particles. Treat food wrappers and other garbage the same as food.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Leader Spotlight: Bill Sheppard

"Put the cut pieces uphill. People walking down paths tend to look downhill," says the sage leader of more than approximately 75 Wilderness Volunteers service projects.

While we are brushing trail in the middle of a wilderness area, Bill Sheppard makes it clear that we need to make sure it looks as natural as possible. That means carefully hiding our slash piles up the hill from the trail, not below the trail. Not in the line of sight of hikers and horse riders. Keep it as natural as possible.

Bill is meticulous about his placement of slash. Always uphill, always hidden from view.

And, he is someone whose advice should be followed.

Bill has led an impressive 110 or so service trips between WV and the Sierra Club since 1990 after having been a participant for six years. And then, in 1989 he was invited to the Sierra Club Midwest Subcommittee spring meeting, and was assigned to lead a second section of a full trip in late summer.  It was a canoe service trip in the Sylvania Wilderness, located in the Superior National Forest in Michigan.

In all his years traveling around the country and lending a hand to various national parks, forests and wilderness areas, Bill has seen a myriad of our public lands. However, Bill, who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, finds himself returning to his local favorite, Grand Canyon National Park. He also prefers leading trips that are within a day to a day-and-a-half drive from Flagstaff. Most of his most recent trips have been located in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

He has conducted nearly every type of trip imaginable, from building trails to eradicating invasive species, and most of them have been in the back country, where WV sometimes receives assistance from packers and their mules hauling in gear from the trailhead to the camp site. It lessens the weight on the packs for everyone, which makes an 11-mile hike into a site much more manageable.

“The packers always amaze me,” Sheppard stated. “They’re usually volunteers, and they really know how to load their stock with our food, kitchen equipment and tools. They make our work possible, and I’m always grateful for their service.”

It’s not only our national public lands that are on the receiving end of Bill’s selfless service. He volunteers for the City of Flagstaff one day a week, working a seven-hour shift doing graffiti abatement. And, he also conducts “unofficial litter pick-up hikes on trails in the forest near home several days a week,” which should come to no surprise to anyone who has ever crossed paths with Bill.

On his various service trips, Bill has enjoyed meeting and working with the volunteers who hail from across the country and sometimes from overseas. He says, “almost all the volunteers have been wonderful. They’re motivated, flexible, physically fit and good comrades.

“The hardest part of each trip was at the end of the week,” he added. “Saying goodbye to all my hard-working friends who had generously spent a week of their vacation time giving back to the wilderness.  We always hope to keep in touch and maybe meet up again on another WV project.”

As for the details that go into getting ready to lead a trip, many leaders, especially new leaders, feel that putting together a menu is one of the most stressful parts of the trip planning. If people aren’t happy with the food, they might not have enough energy needed for the work to be done.

Bill is not one of those leaders.

After planning as many menus as he has, Bill has perfected the process. It is generally the same from trip to trip, although he still tweaks his lineup – adding one or two meals to change things up. For example, when leading his final Wilderness Volunteers trip in 2017, his menu featured a new dinner. He served up Thai food, which featured Tom Ka soup, Backpacker Pantry Pad Thai plus shrimp and spiked mandarins for dessert.

As he retires from leading service projects for Wilderness Volunteers, Bill has one last piece of advice.

“Be flexible, because our plans must sometimes change due to weather, wildfires, packer problems, etc.”

After all, there always is work to be done somewhere.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Announcing the Winners of the 2017 WV Photo Contest

Wilderness Volunteers is pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 WV Photo Contest sponsored by:

We received nearly 200 entries and there were so many fantastic photos, picking a winner was not an easy job.

The grand prize winner for best photo is Eric Mak. He has won a gift certificate for a free Wilderness Volunteers project good for the 2018 project season.

Eric took this epic photo of Denali on the Denali National Park service project.  

The Landscape photo winner is Randy Meier. He has won a adventure sized Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve donated by Mom's Stuff, a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy, and a MiiR Vacuum Insulated Camp Cup donated by REI.    

The Wildlife photo winner is Dave Rice. He has won an adventure sized Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve donated by Mom's Stuff, a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy, a REI buff donated by REI, and a Wilderness Volunteers tri-blend tshirt. 

Dave took this photo of a Bald Eagle in the rain on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge service project. 

The Hard at Work photo winner is Laurel Casjens. She has an adventure sized Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve donated by Mom's Stuff, a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy, a Coupon for 20% off one full price item donated by REI, and a Wilderness Volunteers baseball hat.

Laurel took this photo of volunteers doing trail work on the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness service project in the White River National Forest.

The On The Trail photo winner is Danielle Alling. She has won an adventure sized Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve donated by Mom's Stuff, a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy, an Aloe Gator Sunscreen & SPF 30 chapstick donated by REI, and a Wilderness Volunteers Klean Kanteen.    

Danielle took this photo of the hike in on the Escalante River service project in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

You can see the rest of our great 2017 photo contest entries as well as photos from just about every 2017 service project online in the Wilderness Volunteers photo gallery.

Congratulations to our winners and thank you to our generous sponsors and everyone who entered!

Don't forget to bring your camera with you on your next service project so you are ready for the 2018 Wilderness Volunteers photo contest.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Announcing the 2017 Wilderness Volunteers Photo Contest

The 2017 season is nearly over, so let's celebrate all of the great work our trip participants helped WV accomplish this year by awarding some great prizes for a few fantastic photos!

A few of our great entries from last year:

Enter your favorite WV project photos by uploading your selections to the WV gallery in these categories:
  • Landscapes (scenic photos of our nation's public lands)
  • Wildlife (from slugs to bears, if it's a wild animal it's game)
  • On the Trail (volunteers/hikers on trails)
  • Hard at Work (volunteers working on projects)
Please add a description for each photo as well as your name and what project it was taken on.

One winner will be selected for each category as well as a grand prize winner for best photo.

Grand Prize:
  • A gift certificate for a free Wilderness Volunteers project good for the 2018 project season

Best Landscape:
  • Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve (adventure sized) donated by Mom's Stuff 
  • LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy
  • MiiR Vacuum Insulated Camp Cup donated by REI    

Best Wildlife:
  • Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve (adventure sized) donated by Mom's Stuff 
  • LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy
  • REI buff donated by REI    
  • Wilderness Volunteers tri-blend tshirt 

Best On the Trail:
  • Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve (adventure sized) donated by Mom's Stuff 
  • LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy
  • Aloe Gator Sunscreen & SPF 30 chapstick donated by REI 
  • Wilderness Volunteers Klean Kanteen    

Best Hard At Work:
  • Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve (adventure sized) donated by Mom's Stuff 
  • LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy
  • Coupon for 20% off one full price item donated by REI      
  • Wilderness Volunteers baseball hat

You can enter as many photos as you like, just be sure to do so before the deadline on November 30th! 

A huge thank you to this year's photo contest sponsors:

Mom's Stuff

Official Contest Rules:
  • All photos must be taken on a 2017 Wilderness Volunteers Project and must comply with Leave No Trace ethics & principles.
  • Each entry must include the photographer's name and the project it was taken on.
  • The same photo cannot be entered in more than one category. Judges reserve the right to switch images to other categories.
  • The contest is open to all 2016 WV project participants and leaders, except for Wilderness Volunteers staff, contest judges and their families. WV reserves the right to verify, in its sole judgment, entrant eligibility. 
  • Photographs will be judged on originality, technical excellence, composition, overall impact and artistic merit. Awards will be selected by a panel of judges, and all decisions are final.  
  • Entries must be submitted to the Wilderness Volunteers photo gallery no later than 11:59pm UTC on by Thursday, November 30th, 2017 to be eligible.
  • Judges may exclude entries that do not meet the above criteria.
  • Winners will be notified by email. Wilderness Volunteers is not responsible for lost or damaged prizes.