Practice Bear Safety this Holiday Weekend
The U.S. Forest Service is encouraging campers and visitors to the national forests in North Carolina to practice black bear safety this Memorial Day weekend. Panthertown Valley is part of the Panthertown-Bonas Defeat bear sanctuary. Black bears live here.
This week the U.S. Forest Service has issued a forest alert concerning bear safety.
The warning comes on the heels of two bear encounters in the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, over the past week. The incidents occurred near the Black Balsam area off the Blue Ridge Parkway, south of Shining Rock Wilderness. In both cases, the bears obtained food from backcountry camp sites. Minor property damage was reported. There were no injuries.
While black bear attacks on people are rare, such attacks have resulted in human fatalities. And although human encounters with bears in Panthertown Valley are not very common, we have heard reports of black bears startling hikers as the bears came out of the woods to cross a trail in Panthertown. We suggest you follow the advice of the U.S. Forest Service.
Visitors are encouraged to prevent bear interactions by practicing the following safety tips:
Do not store food in tents.
Properly store food by hanging it in a tree or in another secure container.
Clean up food or garbage around fire rings, grills or other areas of your campsite.
Do not leave food unattended.
Despite the name, the coat of a black bear isn’t always black. There are brown black bears, white black bears and even a blue glacier bear. Experts estimate the average weight of a black bear is 300 pounds. Despite their size, black bears are very agile tree climbers. During times of danger or threat, bear cubs will take shelter in trees. Bears by nature are opportunists. In the wild, they will feed on whatever is readily available. Food odors and improperly stored garbage will attract bears to campgrounds and picnic sites. Bears become habituated to human food if they find it readily available. Although they are naturally afraid of humans, the animals lose this fear as they begin to associate human scents with the reward of food. Black bears can become a threat to humans, property and themselves—a pattern that normally ends with death. Protect yourself and protect the black bears by storing trash and food in safe locations when you visit a national forest.
Safety Checklist (download full-color Bear Safety checklist poster in PDF format)
The U.S. Forest Service has provided the following checklist:
Avoid camping and hiking alone in the backcountry.
Make noise to avoid surprising a bear.
Never approach a bear or other wild animal.
Do not hike in the dark.
Carry EPA registered bear pepper spray.
Keep a clean camp site by properly disposing of food scraps and garbage. For more information, visit Leave No Trace.
Do not leave food or garbage inside fire rings, grills or around your site.
Never leave food or coolers unattended, even in developed picnic areas.
If bear-proof containers are not available, store food and garbage inside a hard-top vehicle or trailer.
Never store food inside of a tent.
Wipe tabletops clean before vacating a camp or picnic site.
If a bear is observed nearby, pack up your food and trash immediately and vacate the area as soon as possible.
If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, by banging pans together, or throwing rocks and sticks at it.
If a bear approaches, move away slowly; do not run. Get into a vehicle or a secure building.
Never run away from a bear—back away slowly and make lots of noise.
If you are attacked by a black bear, try to fight back using any object available. Act aggressively and intimidate the bear by yelling and waving your arms. Playing dead is not appropriate.
Some other tips:
While black bears can be tolerant of people, they should always be treated as the wild animals they are, whether in a residential or backcountry area. Black bears are rarely aggressive towards people and typically go out of their way to avoid contact. As human development continues and bear numbers increase, however, interactions will be unavoidable.
Following these simple guidelines will minimize any unnecessary and potentially dangerous encounters.
Never approach a bear!
Black bears are extremely powerful animals whose behaviors can be unpredictable.
Black bears are very curious animals and this should not be confused with aggression.
If a bear approaches you in the wild, it is likely only trying to assess your presence.
Bears will often stand upright to obtain a better sense of smell.
If you see a black bear from a distance, alter your route of travel.
When camping in bear country, keep all food stored in a vehicle or away from tents.
If approached by a bear- stand your ground, raise your arms to appear larger, and yell until it leaves the area.
Never run from a bear! This will often trigger its natural instinct to chase.
If a black bear attacks, fight back aggressively and do not play dead!
If cornered or threatened, bears may slap the ground, “pop” their jaws, or “huff” as a warning. If you see those behaviors you are too close! Slowly back away while facing the bear at all times.
If you enjoy hiking in Panthertown Valley and would like to protect this spectacular natural resource, we ask that you become a supporting member of our organization by volunteering at one of our upcoming trail work days, or by becoming a member. Donations are tax-deductible and new volunteers and members are always welcome to join us.
For more information call us at (828) 269-HIKE (4453)
Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities
Our next Trail Work Day is this Saturday, May 26 over Memorial Day weekend.
Join us on Saturday, June 2 for National Trails Day in Panthertown Valley.