A Yukon man was fined after finding his cooler – which contained his vital medication – relocated to a bear-proof bin after he left it unattended at his campsite.
Tom “Ace” Wood rented a campsite at the Kusawa Lake Campground, between Whitehorse and Haines Junction. His cooler was taken at 8:30 p.m. last Wednesday by park staff, after having been at the campground for a number of days.
Wood had brought both a camper and a boat to the site. It was windy that evening, and he left the campsite to go tie down his boat. He then stopped at an outhouse on the way back.
Wood did not put the cooler in his truck or camper before leaving. He estimated he left his site for up to 30 minutes.
When he returned, his cooler was gone. This troubled him because all his food and his medication were in it.
Wood said he is a senior with both high blood pressure and heart problems.
“All my pills and everything was gone,” he told the Star.
He explained he has to take his medication twice per day, and usually takes his pills once in the morning and again in the evening.
He said park staff left a note at the site saying he had left a wildlife attractant unattended and that the cooler had been taken to the campground’s wildlife protection container by the cookhouse.
Wood said he went to the cookhouse – but did not see the container.
This forced him to have to drive two hours to his home at Golden Horn, where he was grateful he had more medication.
He said he called to collect his cooler the next day and was told it had been taken by staff because it had been left unattended.
He said he was informed he cannot leave a cooler out in the open unattended, as it could lure wildlife.
“I’m not trying to attract wildlife,” Wood said.
When he got his cooler back, he was issued a $115 fine and was banned from all Yukon campgrounds for 72 hours. He said the food was rotten, but his medication was fine.
He said this incident ruined his holidays, as he had planning to take his grandkids boating.
He is furious over it, and feels his cooler was stolen by park staff.
“I was just livid,” Wood said.
He continued that he has not experienced anything like this in his 48 years in the territory, and said the park staff could benefit from training on customer service techniques.
Wood said he saw no signs informing him about the rules – he thinks information should be posted clearly for people to see.
He understands there needs to be rules for campground use but feels he did nothing wrong, adding that he is not a troublemaker.
“I thought I was complying with all regulations,” he said.
Pamela Brown, the Park Officer Program supervisor for the Department of Environment, said park staff will go out on patrol.
If a staff member sees a cooler left out in the open, Brown said, he or she will enter the campsite to see if there is anyone there.
If no one is on the campsite, the cooler will be secured, and the camper will be left a note of where to collect their cooler.
Brown said staff will take a graduated approach and use enforcement as necessary to gain compliance.
Brown explained this rule is in place to ensure both public and wildlife safety.
“We want to reduce any possibilities for wildlife conflict and remind everyone to please store your wildlife attractants,” she said.
Brown added that this means putting them in their campers, vehicles or the wildlife-resistant lockers in the campgrounds, though she did acknowledge that not all campgrounds have these lockers.
She suggested that if there are no lockers, vehicles or campers to store the wildlife attractant, campground users should become friendly with other users to see if they can help.
She added that the back of the garbage bins are bear-proof, and items can be stored there as long as the back door is closed properly.
Brown said animal attractants can include pet food, recyclables, all food, dirty dishes, frying pans, beverages, toiletries and any substance with an odour.
She continued that many animals can be attracted to the campground by the odour left from these items.
This includes bears, foxes and squirrels, and these animals will get used to finding food in the area and will stick around.
“It’s encouraging wildlife to come to a campground.”
She recalled seeing a squirrel earlier eating some pet food left on a site, and drove up to the site in her truck but the squirrel was not scared off.
Brown said this information is posted in all campgrounds. There is signage and some advisories on the backs of the registration tags that unattended wildlife attractants may be removed, she pointed out.
Wood indicated he has no intention of paying the fine, and is seeking legal advice.
He also intends to contact Premier Sandy Silver and Environment Minister Pauline Frost on the matter.