Research and Management of Black Bears in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, 1974

Research and Management of Black Bears in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, 1974


National Park Service Progress Report, RSP CRLA-N-2A

January 20, 1974

Prepared by Michael R. McCollum


Black bears (Ursus americanus) and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) once inhabited Crater Lake National Park and the surrounding area. The last known grizzly in the region was killed-near Fort Klamath in 1894 or 1895 (Merriam 1897). Although there are conflicting opinions concerning the early abundance of black bears in the region (Merriam 1897 and Herrero 1969), black bears have been common in the park since its establishment in 1902.

During the last 50 years black bears have concentrated at garbage dumps within Crater Lake National Park. Bears habituated to garbage at the dumps have become nuisances in the campgrounds. With a loss of respect for humans by bears and vice versa, human injury and property damage has occurred.

Where bears are concerned there is a difference of opinion as to the manner in which garbage pits should be eliminated. One view is to quickly stop dumping forcing bears to natural feeds immediately. The other view proposes to reduce dumping gradually and phase out dumps “weaning” bears off garbage. This controversy has developed from management of grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park and has been debated at length (Cole 1971; Cole 1973; Craighead & Craighead 1971; National Wildlife Federation 1973). At Crater Lake the former approach of quickly eliminating dumping was implemented. However, black bears rather than grizzlies were the subject of study and numbers of nuisance bears and dump closures were of a much lower magnitude than that reported for Yellowstone.

During the late 1930’s the major garbage dump, located near the present headquarters, was relocated at the head of Munson Valley. Over the years the Munson Dump was established as an area of abnormally high bear concentrations. An observation of 42 bears was made at the dump in 1939 (Walters 1953), and 40 bears were in view at one time in and around the dump in 1941 (Dixon 1944). As recently as 1969, 22 bears were identified using the Munson Dump (Herrero 1969).

Following the recommendations of Dixon (1944) and Herrero (1969) the Park Service eliminated all dumping within Crater Lake National Park. The Munson Dump was closed in October 1971 and use of a smaller winter dump located near headquarters was discontinued the same year.

The present study was originated in anticipation of possible incidents with habitual garbage bears when they emerged from hibernation in the spring of 1972. The study was designed to show changes in feeding habits and tendencies toward property damage because of dump closures. Information pertinent to the future management of bears within the park was also sought.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the help and encouragement offered by Park Service employees and numerous other individuals during the course of study. I am indebted to John Chitwood who helped familiarize me with radio equipment and helped in the construction of antennas. Much of the scat analysis was done by Humboldt State College student Dennis Knuckles.