Please, please don't fill bear boxes with trash when you're camping

Bear box in woodland
(Image credit: Getty)

Park Rangers are begging campers not to leave their garbage behind in bear boxes after several were found packed with trash, leaving other visitors with nowhere to safely store their food.

A ranger from Grand Teton National Park shared photos of one bear box that was packed with eight bags worth of trash. The pictures, which were reposted on Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks this week, show that a 'no trash' sign clearly posted inside the box.

"With the influx of visitors this year, our trails have not only been littered with people, but with trash too," wrote a spokesperson for the park. "This picture is what one of our rangers found at our bear boxes! We can do better. If you're visiting Grand Teton, please follow leave no trace principles and dispose of waste properly in designated trash or recycling receptacles. A bear box is not a trash can. Help us protect and preserve our park's wild spaces!"

When camping in bear country, it's essential that you keep your food out of the animals' reach. If a bear gets into your snacks, not only will you be left hungry, the bear will be more likely to seek out human food again in future, even if it means getting close to people, which can have tragic consequences. As the saying goes, a fed bear is a dead bear. The bear may attack if it feels its food source is threatened, and even if the person is uninjured, the animal may be deemed a threat and euthanized for public safety.

You can store your food in a bear bag suspended high above the ground or borrow a bear canister, but many National Parks offer a more convenient solution in the form of permanent bear boxes. These tough metal lockers are designed to resist even the most determined animals, and give visitors a place to safely store their food without the need for pulleys and ropes.

There are over 600 at at picnic areas and front-country camping sites throughout Grand Teton, and Grand Teton National Park Foundation plans to add another 52 every year.

Unfortunately, these bear boxes can't be used when they're filled with trash. Keeping your garbage out of the reach of wildlife is extremely important (scraps are just as tasty as a fresh meal to a bear), but there are bear-resistant dumpsters throughout the park for exactly this purpose, often just a few yards from the boxes.

Bear-proof dumpsters at picnic site

(Image credit: Getty)

If the nearest dumpster is full, just pack your garbage out and find another one. It's the best thing for other campers, and for the bears.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.