Black Bear Destroyed at Black Canyon

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Date: August 10, 2013
Contact: Christy Fleming, 307-548-5406

On August 9, 2013, a female black bear at Black Canyon Campground in the North District of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, was killed in a joint operation by Montana Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Park Rangers.

Over the last three years, this 100-150 lb black bear has accessed unsecured food and coolers at this popular campground on Bighorn Lake and has recently displayed aggressive behavior toward people. Black Canyon has been closed to the public at various times during the past years due to this bear and was just recently closed to the public on July 26, 2013. The bear activity in the area had been monitored by rangers since this most recent closure.

While monitoring the closed area, this same bear presented to the rangers. One ranger shot a rubber slug deterent round at the bear hitting it front and center. The bear ran into some brush, but came back out five minutes later. The ranger then shot a second rubber slug deterent round at the bear hittting it in the back. The bear ran away for fifteen minutes, then presented itself to the rangers again.

A decision was made by park management in conjunction with the park standard operating procedures and step-up plan that the bear would need to be killed due to its habituation to humans and human food; and its lack of significant response to the deterent rounds fired by the rangers. It is likely that the bear had been fed numerous times over the past 2-3 years by day users and campers that frequent Black Canyon. An investigation is underway concerning activity just preceding and on the day that Black Canyon had to be closed due to this recent bear activity.

The public is reminded that feeding black bears or any wildlife is prohibited by National Park Service regulations and proper food storage is mandatory in bear country. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area regulates food storage and the feeding of wildlife through the Code of Federal Regulations Title 36.

The purpose of these regulations is to help humans and bears co-exist with each other in a safe manner within park environments. Bears and other wildlife should be viewed from a distance and should never be fed food; also campers and visitors should properly store food, refuse, or other items that would attract bears. These items, known as attractants, include human food and beverages, garbage, pet and livestock feed, cooking equipment and utensils, bird feeders, and personal care items including perfume, shampoo, and other scented materials. Once a bear gains access to unsecured attractants at campsites, they can become food-conditioned. Food-conditioned bears are less likely to avoid humans and often display persistent or destructive behavior, which eventually leads to a death sentence for a bear, as what happened in this case. Relocating habituated bears to another area has a very low success rate and has become a less common alternative.

Securing attractants minimizes human-bear conflicts. Food and refuse must be stored in one of the following ways: inside a hard-sided vehicle or camper with all vehicle windows/doors completely closed; inside an approved bear-resistant securable container that when secure or under stress will not have any cracks, openings, lids or hinges that would allow a bear to gain entry by breaking, biting or clawing; or suspended at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet from any tree, post or other support. There are bear-proof food storage lockers for campers at all campgrounds in the park with the exception of Horseshoe Bend.

The Black Canyon Campground has been re-opened to the public for day use and camping. Please continue to be bear aware and remember a fed bear is a dead bear.

For more information, contact Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area offices in Lovell, WY or Fort Smith, MT or visit the park website at

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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Mailing Address:

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Headquarters Office
PO Box 7458

Fort Smith, MT 59035


(307) 548-5406

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