Editor's note: The attribution of the quote contributed by the U.S. Forest Service was corrected on June 8.
MERLIN, Ore.—The Wild and Scenic Lower Rogue River and Rogue River National Recreation Trail draw tens of thousands of visitors annually to enjoy recreational activities including rafting, fishing, hiking and backpacking. As the river and trail are surrounded by undeveloped wildlands, wildlife viewing opportunities abound—particularly the chance to observe black bears.
While viewing black bears from a distance is a cherished, sought-after experience, there is also a record of human-bear conflict in this area. The origin of these conflicts is human-provided attractants (food, garbage, scented toiletries, etc.) made available to bears by recreators who lack knowledge or get complacent about bears and methods for keeping bears from gaining access to them.
To keep wild bears wild and thriving in the Lower Rogue River corridor, beginning May 2022, Rogue River National Recreation Trail hikers can now rent a BearVault bear canister from Whitewater Cowboys, located in Merlin. The bear canister rental program is a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service’s Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, the Bureau of Land Management’s Medford District, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon State Police, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Kalmiopsis Audubon Society, Rogue Riverkeeper, and the Humane Society of the United States.
The goal of this pilot program is to reduce human-bear conflicts, inspire personal stewardship, and foster human-bear coexistence along the Wild and Scenic Lower Rogue River.
“The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest values its partners, and their stewardship of public lands and the wildlife who call them home. I am very pleased to see this partnership working together to keep both bears and humans safe along the Lower Rogue River corridor,” states Elizabeth Bly, acting district ranger for the Gold Beach Ranger District on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
“All user groups must do their part to keep food away from bears,” states Frances Oyung, program director for Rogue Riverkeeper. “When hikers use a bear canister to store bear attractants like food, garbage, sunscreen and even ChapStick, hikers protect wild bears.”
“We are thrilled to be a part of this pilot program and hopeful that we’ll get many requests to rent canisters,” states Kory Mahr of Whitewater Cowboys.
“This program a great example of how different groups can come together to work toward a common goal: protecting bears and hikers,” states Susan Getty, wildlife protection public policy specialist for the Humane Society of the United States.
Bear canisters are only $5.00/day and can be rented online at Whitewater Cowboys or in person at 210 Merlin Rd, Merlin, Oregon.
Check ODFW’s website for more information on dealing with black bears.
Special thanks to River Network and the Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund for their generous grants that made this pilot program possible. BearVault provided a generous discount on the price of the bear canisters.
- Erica Heffner