Goddard Shelter on AT in Vermont Reopens; Bear Killed after Encounters with Hikers

Goddard Shelter, a heavily used camping area on the Appalachian and Long Trails in Southern Vermont, has reopened after an aggressive bear looking for food at the shelter was killed.

The bear was killed by state game wardens who went to the shelter on Friday, July 12.

The Green Mountain Club, which maintains the AT and Long Trail in Vermont, said on its Facebook page on Monday, July 15, that the shelter reopened after a bear that was looking for food tore apart the privy, took two backpacks from hikers, and destroyed two tents. The shelter had been closed since Thursday, July 11.

The club said earlier efforts to prevent bear encounters, including installing a bear box and removing trash near the shelter, did not work.

The Bennington Banner reported that the wardens who went to the shelter felt they had no choice but to kill the bear.

“The bear was showing no fear of humans at this point,” Lt. Dennis Amsden, a game warden in the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, told the Banner. “Human safety was now at risk, so we felt it was necessary to put the bear down.”

Trek blogger Ruth “Chocoholic” Morley was at the shelter during one of the bear encounters, and wrote about it on her blog on Tuesday, July 9.

“There was a good crowd staying in the shelter and camping on the grounds, despite the warnings online about frequent bear presence. Yep, here came one around 7 p.m., within eight feet of the porch of the shelter!

Photo by Ruth Morley.

“Previous campers had lined up over 40 rocks along the walls of the shelter and on the shelf intended for food prep.

“When Bruno just kept advancing and didn’t run from our shouting, folks began throwing the rocks right at him. One good hit finally got him to head away, but not far. The privy was his next potential food mart. After tearing up the plastic-covered bale of sawdust outside the privy (used to help activate the composting toilet), he ripped off the simple little lock on the door and wreaked havoc on the interior of the outhouse. Another bale of sawdust was ripped into and the toilet itself pulled out of the floor. I have heard of some campers putting food waste in the pit, not knowing this was Bruno’s secret deli. I managed to get these photos by hiding under a nearby bush and hoping for the best. Don’t do this at home, kids.

Photo by Ruth Morley.

“With a lack of a good snack, he finally sauntered away, but you can bet we were ready to get out of there quickly in the morning, the time frame when he had accosted the last group there. We heard that they had to grab their packs and run down the trail with their breakfasts in their hands.”

The GMC said bear encounters at shelters and campsites have increased this year, with the bears seeming to lose their fear of humans.

“This year we have had bear problems at Kid Gore, Goddard, and Stratton Pond Shelters,” the club said on its website. “The bears at these locations did not react or show fear when yelled at or when stones were thrown in an attempt to scare them off. They got into several hikers’ food supplies, ripped apart a privy that had a moldy loaf of bread thrown in it, and sniffed into a shelter one night—leaving only after a startled hiker smacked the bear in the head with a trekking pole.”

Bear boxes have been installed at Goddard, Kid Gore, Story Spring, and Stratton Pond shelters on the AT/LT, along with boxes at Montclair Glen Lodge, Hump Brook Tenting Area, and Bamforth Ridge Shelter on the Long Trail north of the trail’s split from the AT at Maine Junction.

The club also recommends that hikers remove mouse hangers—inverted cans hung from strings—at shelters. Usually effective at deterring mice, the hangers are attracting bears to shelters, the GMC said.

Encounters with bears seeking food are not new on the Appalachian Trail, or on other hiking trails in the US. Shelters have been closed and camping restricted on the AT in recent years because of bear encounters. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy requests hikers to report bear encounters here.

The ATC also posts reports of bear encounters.

The ATC recommends that hikers use a bear canister on the AT, or hang their food using the Pacific Crest Trail method. Food should be hung 12 feet from the ground and six feet from the overhanging limb and trunk.

Bear canisters are required on parts of the PCT. The Pacific Crest Trail Association says the bear population in California has increased from 10,000 in the 1980s to around 35,000 now, and that the bears’ range has expanded to areas where they weren’t previously seen.

Feature photo provided by Ruth Morley.

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Comments 10

  • Ruth Morley : Jul 13th

    I’m very sad that it came to this conclusion. I feel honored whenever I have the opportunity to see a bear in its natural habitat, but in the end, it was backpackers’ food that was his downfall.

    I agree with the recommendation for using bear canisters. I’ve used one the past two years and feel great food security.

    Reply
  • Kathryn : Jul 13th

    Why didn’t they relocate the bear to a sanctuary instead of killing it?!
    It’s the human who is trespassing, not the bear. We go on it’s land and demand that it show fear of us, and leave us perfectly alone.
    The whole thing makes no sense.

    It didn’t have to die.

    Reply
    • Dan : Jul 14th

      Once they lose their natural fear of humans, they will approach and attack to get the food. There is no safe place to relocate them, it is only a matter of time until someone gets mauled. The population is large enough that black bears are legally hunted, it would most likely have been easily taken.

      Reply
    • Chris : Jul 14th

      Similar to what the white man did to the native Americans, some things never change 😥

      Reply
    • mike : Jul 16th

      Humans have a right to hike and be safe. Why do people assume we are trespassing on the habitat of other species?

      Reply
    • Wendy King : Jul 17th

      You didn’t have to kill the bear. People are trespassers. You could have darted it and relocated it far away in the Canadian wilderness or in the Pacific northwest somewhere.

      Reply
  • Ruth Anne Collins : Jul 14th

    I’m familiar with Goddard Shelter and have camped there. Sure, there were bear boxes there and at other shelters along my trek. However, many were locked! Yes, the ones at Goddard were locked at the beginning of August last summer. My understanding is that the trail crew were using them for tool storage. Therefore, they were not available for hiker use. Personally, I have been hiking with a bear canister the past two seasons when I can get out there to backpack, and in spite of the weight and bulk of it, finding it easier than a bear bag for me. I also use the bear boxes when they are available. I am saddened that the bear was enticed to be a nuisance. I find it insane that there are locked bear boxes along the trails. What is the point of the expense and pointing fingers at hikers if the club is going to put locks on them to keep the humans out?

    Reply
  • Woody Hester : Jul 14th

    It’s always sad when an animal has to be destroyed, but when one loses its fear of humans and is as aggressive as this one was, it just has to be. There is no safe place to relocate it and the only other option is to close the trail and nearby shelters to humans indefinitely. Certainly not an option AT hikers would support. As for bear canisters, I was opposed to them for years, but am now a convert. I got a bigger pack and now use a BV 450. It’s actually a lot more convenient than doing a PCT bear hang every night, when I’m tired. Also easy to pack up in the morning. I thought I’d never say it, but I think if everyone used them everywhere, the bear problem would eventually go away….or at least improve a LOT.

    Reply
  • Mark Stanavage : Jul 14th

    I despise the weight and size of my bear canister, but stories like this make the effort worth it. For the record, I suck at hanging bear bags and there never seems to be a tree just right for the job.

    Reply
  • Donnie Brasco : Jul 19th

    The AT needs to institute bear resistant containers including the URSACK. The ursack doesn’t weigh that much and is a better choice than a can because it’s stationary when tied properly. A bear can is able to be rolled away by a bear if you’re unable to wedge it under something.

    Reply

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