From Staff Reports
Due to multiple reports of aggressive bear activity and evidence of bears entering campsites and taking food, the Appalachian Trail between Double Springs Shelter and the intersection with Backbone Rock Side Trail (miles 451 through 464) will be closed to camping until further notice. McQueen’s Knob (emergency) Shelter and Abingdon Gap Shelter are both closed until further notice. Through hiking on the trail will still be allowed.
U.S. Forest Service officials are also warning visitors to be on the lookout for black bears and be BearWise. Visitors are reminded of the Forest Order for the entire Cherokee National Forest that prohibits possessing or leaving food, bear attractant, or refuse unless it is possessed properly or stored properly. The Order was issued to provide for visitor safety and the conservation of bears.
Black bears in the wild are opportunistic, feeding on whatever is readily available. Food odors and improperly stored garbage will attract bears to campsites and picnic areas, even when humans are around. Though bears are naturally afraid of humans, bears habituated to human food can begin to associate human scents with the reward of food. Due to this, bears can become a threat to humans, property, and themselves.
Following are procedures that will help reduce the chances of a close encounter with a bear while on a camping trip:
· Never leave food or trash unattended.
· Never cook or store food in or near your tent.
· Hang food and anything with strong odors (toothpaste, bug repellent, soap, etc.) at least 12 feet off the ground and 6 feet from a tree or limb, or use special food storage canisters and cable systems if available.
· Keep a clean site by properly disposing of garbage including fruit rinds and cores, empty cans or jars and aluminum foil used for grilling or cooking.
· Never feed a bear or other animals.
· Never approach a bear.
· If a bear approaches your site, pack up your food and trash. If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, or by banging pans together. If the bear is persistent, move away slowly to your vehicle or other secure area.
· Keep children close at hand.
· Keep pets properly confined to a leash or in a vehicle or camper.
· Always respect bears and admire them from a distance.
For more information on bear safety, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/