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Camping prohibited due to bear activity

Black bear activity in the Cherokee National Forest has led U.S. Forest Service officials to prohibit camping in the Clarks Creek area of the Unaka Ranger District.
Camping is being restricted on a temporary basis in the area. Officials are still allowing day-use activities, such as fishing, horseback riding and hiking to take place in the Clarks Creek area, which is located on National Forest System Road 25 in Unicoi and Washington counties.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) reported last week that bear activity is to be expected this time of year. “This is the season where they’ve emerged from their winter dens and are in search of food to replenish their energy and fatten back up,” a press release from the TWRA said.
Biologists believe the bear population in the region is growing.
“Last year’s outstanding hard mast crop resulted in fewer bears harvested and excellent reproductive success,” TWRA Region IV Wildlife Management and Research Coordinator Dan Gibbs said. “The end result is more bears.”
The TWRA said the number of bear sightings has not increased this year; however, because aggressive bear activity has occurred in the Clarks Creek area, camping has been prohibited. The TWRA also reported that aggressive bear activity has also been reported from Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). This led to the euthanization of a bear by GSMNP rangers.
Both the TWRA and U.S Forest Service advised visitors to never approach a bear.
“Black bears are opportunists and become habituated to areas where food and trash have been improperly discarded or stored and is easily available …” a press release from the U.S. Forest Service said. “Keeping an area clean and free of trash and food can greatly reduce the chances of encounters with bears. Your cooperation with these simple tips can help break the cycle of bears returning to the same area in search of human food, protecting you and the bears.”
The U.S. Forest Service reminds visitors to:
• Never approach a bear – they are wild animals,
• Never leave food unattended,
• Not discard any food scraps on the ground or in streams,
• Store food in a vehicle or other secure place when not in use,
• Clean up and carry trash out when departing.
More safety information is available at: http://fs.usda.gov/r8. For local national forest information call the Unaka Ranger Station at 638-4109.