Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Yellowstone Park Foundation Launches Campaign to Protect Bears and Save Lives

/PRNewswire/ -- A fed bear is a dead bear. Most people who live in bear country have heard this clever saying. Some -- like Kerry Gunther, a bear management biologist for Yellowstone National Park -- know first-hand that this warning is all too true.

"Bears that obtain human food eventually become more aggressive toward humans, and may need to be removed from the population," explained Gunther. "Almost every year for the past few years, it has been necessary for a bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to be euthanized for this reason. It's the toughest part of this job."

Wildlife managers know that access to human food is the greatest risk faced by wild bears. Fortunately, there is a solution. The use of large, bear-proof storage containers, or "bear boxes," is a proven method of preventing bears from becoming conditioned to human food.

The problem is that less than 25 percent of campsites in Yellowstone's roadside campgrounds -- the most likely place for a bear to seek and obtain food -- currently have bear boxes.

To address this problem, the Yellowstone Park Foundation -- the official fundraising partner of Yellowstone National Park -- is offering the public a unique opportunity to Sponsor a Bear Box. For each $1,000 in contributions raised by the Foundation, Yellowstone will purchase and install a bear box in a Park campground.

Yellowstone Park Foundation President Paul Zambernardi says that the goal is to purchase 50 bear boxes to place in top-priority campgrounds. "So far this summer, we've received enough contributions for the Park to install the first ten boxes, but many more are needed to have a significant impact," said Zambernardi.

The first group of sponsored bear boxes was installed last week at Bridge Bay Campground, within prime grizzly habitat along the shore of Yellowstone Lake. The campground's volunteer hosts Diane Browne and Andy Anderson understand the critical need for bear boxes, so much so that they sponsored a box themselves.

"As part of our hosting duties, we need to survey the campground several times each day to make sure that no unsecured food is around to tempt bears and other wildlife," said Diane. "These boxes will make it easier for campers to comply with food storage regulations, keeping them safer as well as the bears."

While donations of any amount are encouraged, groups or individuals who fully sponsor a box will be recognized with a small plaque that is permanently affixed to the box. Learn more at www.ypf.org/bearbox

The nonprofit Yellowstone Park Foundation has been the official fundraising partner of Yellowstone National Park since 1996. It funds projects and programs that protect, preserve, and enhance Yellowstone. Learn more at www.ypf.org.

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