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White Mountain National Forest visitors report uptick in bear encounters

Visitors to the White Mountain National Forest have been reporting more encounters with black bears rummaging through coolers and food storage bags, and crawling into tents, the U.S. Forest Service said.

In the past week, visitors have reported numerous incidents of bears looking for food at the Sugarloaf, Hancock, Campton and Tripoli campgrounds, as well as along several trails on the Pemigewassett Ranger District east of Interstate 93, the forest service said.

Visitors are advised to keep clean campsites to ensure that bears and other animals don’t search them for food.

“Visitors are reporting that bears have been seen rummaging through coolers, crawling into tents and underneath shelters, and reaching food in improperly hung storage bags,” the forest service said Friday. “When bears are successful in obtaining food rewards, their fear of people lessen.”

The forest service is urging visitors to properly store all food, including drink containers, condiments like ketchup and mustard, and empty food wrappers. Backcountry campers should hang their food bags at least 10 feet off the ground and 5 feet out from a tree limb that could support a bear. The use of bear-resistant containers also is encouraged.

The feeding of bears, intentional or unintentional, is prohibited in the White Mountain National Forest. Visitors who have not properly stored their food risk their own safety and receiving a citation, the forest service said.

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