Boundary Waters Food Rescrtictions

New Strict Food Storage Rules for Boundary Waters

The Superior National Forest has issued an updated forest order requiring all visitors to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) to properly store food, food containers, and scented items at all times between March 1 and November 30.

The new rules aim to prevent bear-human interactions by mandating “Bear Aware” behaviors throughout the wilderness.

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Storing Food to Protect Bears

Under Forest Order 09-09-24-02, attractants like food, food containers, scented items like soap and toothpaste, and refuse must be suspended at least 12 feet above ground and 6 feet from tree trunks, or stored in an Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee certified bear-resistant container.

“Once a bear is ‘rewarded’ with human food or garbage, it is likely to become habituated and continue the behavior, which could ultimately lead to the bear being dispatched,” explained Superior National Forest Wildlife Biologist Cheron Ferland.

Wilderness-Wide Order a Preventative Measure

Previous food storage requirements were reactive, implementing rules after problematic bear interactions occurred in specific areas.

However, this order covers the entire 1.1 million-acre BWCAW proactively for up to two years to prevent bears from becoming habituated to human sources of food.

“We want visitors to be diligent about properly storing food at all times and throughout the BWCAW,” a forest service spokesperson said, noting site-specific orders were confusing.

Education Over Strict Enforcement Initially

While violating the mandatory food storage order could result in fines, the Superior National Forest intends to focus on education over strict enforcement for the first year, issuing warnings except for egregious or repeated violations.

“Fortunately, many BWCAW visitors are already practicing good food storage techniques,” officials said, expressing optimism that the preventative wilderness-wide approach will be adopted smoothly as visitors recognize its importance for wildlife.

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