Years ago bear bagging seemed more of a legitimate practice than perhaps today. After doing some reading I am finding that the underestimated intelligence of the critters is becoming more apparent. An example coming from our area close to NY state in the High Peaks area of the Adirondacks. I have read that at least one bear has been foiling even a particular brand of bear canister.
The last time we BPed the Adirondacks High peaks area years ago Rangers were informing folks that some of the more popular camp sights were actually being ambushed by bears. They would either follow or wait for BPers to come in to a sight and then proceed to grab the loot. We never had a problem but we usually stayed away from the more popular areas purposely.
It has me wondering though, going forth, if the whole idea of bagging is just outdated with populations of Black bears increasing. I don't like the idea of carrying a canister but it seems maybe like a smart shift in the whole culture of BPing to do so.
Well, here in California, bears break into cars, climb trees and chew ropes, kamikaze dive from the tops of trees to nab the counterbalanced bags on the way down, and do CPR on bear vaults, not to mention bluff charge hikers to make them drop packs. They have been known to dart out and grab food when you turn your back and take off with unattended backpacks. They break into cabins routinely and have done so for decades in some areas. I had a bear sneak up on me while I was sitting next to a trail eating a turkey sandwich.
I hang food where there are no bears to speak of. The raccoons, ringtails, rats, squirrels and mice are a nuisance in some areas. Currently I have three sizes of canister and use them anywhere I think there will be bears. It's not worth doing otherwise any more.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
Some places you do not have a choice- bear cans are required. Other places, you have to make the choice. After many years going around on this issue, I now take my Bearikade on most trips required or not. However, there are still a LOT of areas where you would not need a bear can, but if you end up in some of the more popular and well used places, you will eventually have to have one. If in grizzly country, also do not forget to take bear spray!