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Low-Impact Food Hoists

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Grub and Grizzlies

Minimizing contacts between grizzly bears and humans has become an important focus of compliance with the Endangered Species Act in critical grizzly bear habitat. Agencies have proposed or implemented special regulations in many areas that require human and livestock foods and attractants to be stored so they are inaccessible to bears. Bear-resistant containers, hard-sided vehicles, and food suspended out of reach are all acceptable techniques.

Low-impact hoisting techniques are a reasonable alternative where permanent structures are not desired or available, particularly in wilderness. They eliminate the expense and weight of bear-resistant containers and are suitable when the loads are not extremely heavy.

This report describes techniques to hoist food-both human and stock-at least 10 feet high and 4 feet away from the supporting tree.

design graphic of a bear
  • No permanent installations or structures are needed.
  • Hoists can be set up for the duration of the visit and be completely removed when it is time to strike camp.
  • Climbing trees is not necessary.
  • These procedures are affordable and practical and use readily available equipment.
  • All of these techniques need trees for support.

There are some very real limitations to these low-impact hoisting techniques. Because of the variable strength of native poles, tree branches, rope and hardware, the amount of weight that can be suspended safely is not much over 125 pounds for the sturdiest system. It is not possible to accurately establish design strength of these systems since all the key variables are not known. Use common sense to identify the weakest link in the system you choose and do not exceed that capacity.

Be careful when working on or around hoists:

  • Do not stand under suspended loads.
  • Work on the opposite side of the tree from suspended cross poles
  • Use care when raising and lowering loads to prevent injury to your hands, arms, head, or back.


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Updated: 04/14/2014
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