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The Leader
NOLS Tests Alternative Food Storage Methods

By Willie Waterman, NOLS Intern

Reprinted from The Leader, Spring 2003, Vol. 18, No. 2

NOLS, the leader in outdoor education, is now the leader in bear deterrence as well. Bear tubes, which NOLS students have been carrying into backcountry areas for years and are incredibly bulky and cumbersome, will soon be a thing of the past, according to NOLS Curriculum Manager John Gookin.

John has created a portable, lightweight electric fence system that will keep curious bears out of backpackers’ food stores. Not only is John expecting these fences to simply keep bears away from campers’ food, but he’s hoping to condition the bears to avoid human food for good.

NOLS is currently using the fences on an experimental basis in cooperation with the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. NOLS began testing the fences in 2002 and has already accumulated over 1,000 user-nights in the Absaroka and Wind River ranges with NOLS students. Before being tested in the field with NOLS, Wyoming Game & Fish biologists experimented with the devices. The biologists stationed the system around carcasses in known problematic grizzly prone areas and came out with a 100% success rate, meaning the bears stayed away from the carcasses. The fences have been tested in hot, dry, temperate and snowy conditions.

There will be some new additions to the fences that NOLS will use in 2003, including a light to prevent the bears, who have notoriously poor night vision, from stumbling into the fences in the dark. Regardless, NOLS students will be happy to know that hard-to-pack, heavy bear tubes will be one less thing they have to stuff into their backpacks this summer.


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