Bear encounters prompt Middle Fork Applegate closure
State wildlife officials have closed an area near Applegate Lake following a rash of encounters with black bears.
The Middle Fork Applegate River/Elliot Creek area of the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is closed through Sept. 2 due to the recent bear-human encounters.
The area will remain open to residents, and people can drive through it, but camping, hiking and other activities are off limits.
The temporary closure “is our attempt to teach the bears that there is no longer a food reward in these areas and move on,” said acting district ranger James Courtright. “When bears become habituated to food, it can be difficult to change their behavior. This is another reason for acting quickly with an enforced closure.”
Bears have been entering camps and stealing improperly stored food and garbage.
Wildlife biologist Dave Clayton said the closure is an alternative to euthanizing the bears, which are looking for food and water during a severe drought — often in campsites where food is not properly stored.
Courtright said he has received two to three reports per week of bear encounters in the area since he assumed the role of district ranger in late June. Field surveys showed that five out of every seven people interviewed had seen bears.
“There’s quite a bit of activity out there. I saw two bears myself,” he said.
No injuries or property damage have resulted from the encounters, but one or more bears are “very habituated,” walk too closely to people and defecate around tents, Courtright said.
The best way to store food and trash at a campsite is to use a bear-proof food locker or bear box with a screw-top lid. Locked vehicles are the next best option, he said.
Once the closure lifts Sept. 3, “we’ll just have to closely monitor and see if the bears are still there,” Courtright said. “If they’re still there, then we’ll have to revisit the closure with the forest supervisor.”
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended the closure to encourage the bears to relocate, he said.
This temporary closure applies to all lands, roads and trails within the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest within a quarter mile of Forest Road 1040 from the intersection of Forest Road 1035 to the intersection of Forest Road 1050, Forest Road 1050 from the intersection of Forest Road 1040 to the intersection of Forest Road 1055, and Forest Road 1055 from the intersection of Forest Road 1050 for a half mile.