The Joy of Bear Proof Containers

Humans put their food in bear proof barrels. So, what does the smart bear do?

For those wishing to explore the back country of Denali National Park in Alaska one of the requirements that the rangers insist upon is that the avid hiker must take with him a bear proof container. This is a small, barrel shaped container which also proves itself to be human proof if you don’t have a screw driver with you to open it. The containers are designed to keep your hiking food in so that you and not the bears dine upon it.

bear proof smokey
Sure, he looks friendly now…

Does anyone see the problem with this?

I thought so. If a hungry bear cannot get the human food out of the canister, then what is he going to munch on? Why, the human of course! With the human it is a lot less aggravating to get the wrapping off. It’s like the difference when we have a can of tuna and a candy bar to eat but no can opener. That candy bar is quickly gone.

One might question if the park rangers are aware of this problem. Don’t bother asking — THEY ARE ENTIRELY BEHIND IT! That’s right — THEY SUPPORT IT 100%!!! Behind those cute, boy scout-like earnest faces, starched uniforms, dorky hats and benign smiles are sinister minds. Look at the logic of it:

People come to Denali to see bears.
Denali is mostly tundra with limited food resources.
No food, no bears.
No bears, less tourists.
Less tourists, less work for rangers.
Less work for rangers, rangers must go out and get real, miserable jobs like the rest of us.

Bears need to eat much in the summer. A LOT of food. Yet tons of fresh bear snacks are delivered everyday to Denali by buses and trains. Fresh meat virtually delivered to the bear’s doorstep in droves. Food that of it’s own free will walks into the wild country and presents itself and I don’t mean Domino’s Pizza. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I mean tourists! That bastion of the local Alaskan economy! That natural resource that dresses in moose T-shirts and Alaskan baseball caps! That element of the food chain that looks to bears like walking corn dogs!

Rangers, being resourceful individuals, have not overlooked the practicality of this. How much more convenient can it be to have your food come in its own two legs well packaged in cotton, nylon and wool? Among the Denali bears the 3:30 Anchorage train is referred to as ‘Meals On Wheels.’

Most tourists stay within the confines of the Visitors Center and the RV sites, but a few intrepid, adventuresome and, most importantly, well fed, healthy souls wander into the back country to experience Nature, some more than they ever expected.

Campers are supposed to put up their site in a triad form — the tent at one corner of a pyramid shape with the cooking area and food storage area 300 feet away from each other. Any smart bear would simply watch the following scenario and figure things out for itself — the camper comes out of the tent, wanders over to the bear proof container, takes out the food, wanders over to the cooking area, cooks and eats the food, then wanders back to the tent.

What does the smart bear do? He watches, waits, and when the hiker is in the tent, goes down and gets all his food at once at one convenient location, much like the drive through at McDonald’s. It is much like getting a giant breakfast burrito with everything in one wrap. The tent is also a much easier package to undo than the bear proof canister.

Can the rangers truly be this evil? I’m sorry to say, it gets even deeper.

The bear proof containers (which will hereafter be referred to as ‘bear provocation containers’) have a second sinister purpose. They also slow down the hiker having to carry their extra weight. No sense in making the bear work too much for his food and loose all that fat he is trying to save for winter. Just give the hiker a little extra weight to slow them down enough for the bear to catch up with them easily. That then puts the food chain in the proper order.

The local bears get a great kick out of greeting the campers in the back country. A camper with a campfire is referred to as a ‘Hot Pocket.’ They especially love getting campers while still wrapped in their sleeping bags. An oriental in a sleeping bag is called an ‘egg roll’, a Latino is a ‘Chimichanga,’ and a white person is a ‘wrap.’ Skinny hikers are named ‘crunchy style’ while short ones are ‘McNuggets.’ Hippies are considered ‘exotic flavored.’

The rangers also have a Faustian deal with the people who make the little silver ‘bear bells’ that hikers are supposed to attach to their clothing to let a bear know when you are in the area. There’s nothing like having a dinner bell chiming on your body to announce that supper is walking through the area. The ranger’s retirement program apparently receives 10% of every bell sold. So evil are these government servants that next years model of bear bells will be made out of lead to further enhance the ‘catchability’ of the wearer.

Once acquired, bear provocation containers provide great entertainment for the bears. The first fun part is catching the hiker with one. Then comes the joy of ripping open the backpack it is in, much like the happiness of kids opening Christmas presents. Then they can play soccer with the canister until it breaks open. When this happens, they find that the hiker himself will make an adequate substitute. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?