Trash left at a popular recreation spot northwest of Pemberton has created an unprecedented "dangerous situation" with bears acting aggressively towards campers, according to B.C.'s Ministry of Forests.
On Friday, May 12, a bulletin was sent out advising the public that the Keyhole Falls hot springs and trail, located at the 42-kilometre mark of the Upper Lillooet Forest Service Road, has been closed indefinitely.
The ministry said there have been numerous bear sightings at the site over the past two weeks.
"The bears are acting very aggressively in pursuit of food and people are behaving very poorly in terms of managing their food and garbage," reported Alistair McCrone, district recreation officer with the ministry.
Officials have tracked at least five bears in the area — including two cubs — that, in some cases, have been seen rummaging through tents, backpacks and bluff-charging visitors. The bears have even learned how to access a food-cache platform located nearly four metres up a tree, McCrone relayed.
"There's a sow black bear that had new cubs two years ago and they're habituated, she's habituated to food, and she's had two new cubs this year and they are habituated as well," he added. "It's a multigenerational problem with these bears."
Following a summer when the public's repeated failure to adhere to the ministry's closure order kept Keyhole Falls shut down for the majority of the season, McCrone isn't confident "we'll get the kind of cooperation we need to keep the site open."
The falls and trail may end up being closed long-term until the ministry is able to come up with a safety plan that works. If the closure isn't followed — like this weekend when scores of campers were spotted at the site in spite of the ministry's warnings — McCrone said officials would be forced to take additional action, such as destroying the hot tubs located at the site.
"If people aren't going to abide by the closure, it's very likely that there will be an attack, and you can quote me on that," he added.
"I've been doing this... for nearly 20 years and I have never seen a situation as dangerous as this."
Violation tickets will be handed out to anyone caught ignoring the restrictions, the ministry said. Use of the trail will net you a $115 fine, while leaving food, garbage or other wildlife attractants is subject to a $345 fine.