For those wishing to explore the back country of Denali National Park in Alaska, one of the requirements that park rangers insist upon is that avid hikers pack their food in a bear-proof container. Unfortunately, this small, barrel-shaped container also proves itself to be human proof if you don’t carry a screwdriver with you to open it.
Does anyone see the problem with this?
I thought so. If a hungry bear cannot get the human food out of the canister, then he might instead try to get the human food out of the human himself! 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. A few bits of thermal clothing and parkas are nothing to experienced bear claws.
One might question whether 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 human beings. Here’s the logic:
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 park rangers.
Less work for park rangers, rangers forced to go out and get real, miserable jobs like the rest of us.
The rangers have thereby made a pact with the bears as evil as that which Stalin signed with Hitler.
Bears need to eat a lot of food in the summer. A LOT of food. Tons of fresh fodder gets delivered to the park every day by buses and trains. Fresh meat in all shapes, sizes and textures is virtually delivered to the bears’ doorstep in droves. Food that will, of its own free will, walk into the wild country and present itself and I don’t mean Domino’s Pizza. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I mean tourists! That bastion of Alaska’s summer 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 on it’s 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 for the bears’ sake, well-fed souls wander into the back country to experience nature intimately, perhaps more intimately than they expected.
Campers are supposed to set up their sites 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 himself.
The camper comes out of his tent, wanders over to the bear-proof container, takes out his food, wanders over to the cooking area, cooks and eats his food, then wanders back to the tent. And what would your smarter-than-the average-bear do with this observation? He would watch, wait and when the hiker is back in the tent at the end go down and get all his food at once in one convenient location much like the drive through at McDonald’s. It would be 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 container.
Can the rangers truly be this evil to play a part in this sordid affair? I’m sorry to say it goes even deeper. The bear-proof containers (which will be hereafter referred to as ‘The bear provocation devices’) have a second sinister purpose. They also slow down a hiker by having to carry their extra weight. No sense in making the bear work too hard getting his much needed calories for the winter. Just give the hiker a little extra weight to bog them down enough for the bear to catch up with them easily. That puts the food chain back in the proper order.
The local bears get a great kick out of greeting the campers in the back country in their own special way. A camper in a sleeping bag next to a campfire is referred to as a ‘Hot Pocket’.
An oriental in a sleeping bag is an ‘egg roll’, a Latino is a ‘stuffed burrito’, and a white person is a ‘wrap’. Skinny hikers are called ‘carrot sticks’, short ones are ‘McNuggets’ and hippies are considered ‘health food’.
Rangers also have a Faustian deal worked out with the people who make the little silver ‘bear bells’ that hikers are supposed to attach to themselves to let a bear know you are in the area and supposedly cause them to avoid you. Hardly. There’s nothing like having a dinner bell wrapped around your neck going ting-a-ling, to set a bear’s saliva glands in motion and announce to all that dinner is approaching. The ranger’s retirement program apparently receives 10% of every bell sold. So twisted are these government servants that next years model of the bells will be made out of lead to further enhance the ‘catch-ability’ of the wearer.