From Staff Reports
U.S. Forest Service officials at the Cherokee National Forest announced on Friday, April 15, that national forest lands within the corridor between the areas known as Oliver Hollow north to Wilbur Dam are temporarily closed to public entry except for hiking on the Appalachian Trail. The closure is being implemented because of black bear activity in the area.
National forest lands within the corridor are temporarily closed to public entry by land and water access, except hiking on the Appalachian Trail, according to the Forest Service. The Watauga Lake shelter on the Appalachian Trail is closed. No recreating, preparing or consuming food, overnight stays or lingering in the closure area is allowed until the closure order is lifted Aug. 15, 2016 (unless extended).
Oliver Hollow is located on Watauga Lake in Carter County on Oliver Hollow Road off Highway 321 near Hampton. Wilbur Dam (TVA) is located on the Watauga River off Wilbur Dam Road and Bishop Hollow Road in Carter County near Elizabethton. The corridor is within the Cherokee National Forest’s Watauga Ranger District.
Oliver Hollow is a popular dispersed camping and day use area on the western end of Watauga Lake. Bears have recently been frequenting the corridor and Oliver Hollow. The U.S. Forest Service is working with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Tennessee Valley Authority to address the concern.
Bears are opportunists and become habituated to campsites and picnic areas where food has been improperly discarded or stored and is easily available. Though naturally shy of humans, bears learn to associate humans with food. They then learn to frequent the same areas where they may encounter humans. This is when concerns arise.
Forest Service officials say that in all outdoor recreation settings, you should always store your food and trash so it does not attract bears and other animals. Food should be properly stored in a vehicle, or hung from a bear pole or tree when in the backcountry. Trash should be placed in bear-resistant trash cans where available or packed out when you leave. Do not discard any food scraps in picnic areas, shooting ranges or any other recreation site. Doing so may attract bears and lead to temporary closure of the site if safety becomes a concern due to bear activity.
National forest visitor cooperation with this and similar temporary closures may help break the cycle of bears returning to the same sites in search of human food, protecting you and the bears.
For more information about safety around bears visit the website, Safety in Bear Country link at: http://fs.usda.gov/cherokee, or Outdoor Safety in the South link at: http://fs.usda.gov/r8. For local information call the Watauga Ranger Station at 735-1500.