CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK — Bear-resistant containers soon will be required for overnight visitors to areas of Canyonlands National Park.

The National Park Service has announced that beginning May 1, all overnight backcountry permit holders for Upper Salt and Salt-Horse backcountry zones in the Needles District of Canyonlands will be required to store food and beverages, food and beverage containers, garbage, and all other scented items at least 100 feet from camp in a hard-sided, bear-resistant container.

Containers must be approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. A list of approved models can be found on the committee's website.

Black bears wander into the park from nearby mountains as they forage for food and water, often over long distances. Some bears are naturally more aggressive than others, but bears that obtain and become habituated to human food can be very dangerous.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the frequency of black bear sightings and signs in the Salt Creek watershed. Other negative wildlife-visitor interactions in the Needles backcountry have involved repeated instances of rock squirrels and raccoons aggressively damaging visitors' gear in efforts to gain access to food. The behavior of these animals indicates that they have become habituated to human food that has not been adequately secured. The intent of the new bear-resistant container policy is to prevent wildlife access to human food, and to ultimately help protect visitors and wildlife from harm. Park officials encourage all visitors traveling through the region's backcountry to plan ahead to ensure they can properly secure all items that may attract bears and other wildlife.