Bear hunting in Panthertown? NCWRC public hearing Jan 20. Comments due by Jan 31, 2022.

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Panthertown is a popular backcountry recreation area and designated bear sanctuary within Nantahala National Forest in Jackson County that has seen a significant increase in human visitation and recreational usage since its earliest days of public access (1989). Outdoor recreation in Panthertown is enjoyed year-round by ever increasing numbers of visitors, including hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers, equestrians, rock climbers, birders, hunters, anglers, scouts, students, families, and children.

Friends of Panthertown is a local 501(c)3 non-profit organization that works in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to conserve Panthertown as a backcountry natural resource and enable sustainable recreation.

Panthertown is designated as part of the Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Sanctuary by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. American black bears (Ursus americanus) live in peace here. Panthertown is one of the few remaining areas in North Carolina where bears are protected. This is their natural, wild habitat. These forests are their territory. This is their home. Humans are the visitors in Panthertown. Currently no bear hunting is permitted anywhere within the 9,180-acre Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Sanctuary.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission is proposing a rule change to allow bear hunting by permit in the Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Sanctuary. NCWRC estimates that 521 permits will be issued for this sanctuary in 2022 at a cost of $8 each.

NCWRC has scheduled an online virtual public hearing on January 20 at 7pm with comments encouraged. Public comments are due by January 31.

NCWRC Commissioners will consider proposed rule changes at their February 2022 meeting. If adopted, rules will take effect August 1, and be in place for the 2022-2023 seasons. Details can be found at


photo of a bear family by mjmcintosh

As longtime stewards of the Panthertown backcountry recreation area, and as residents of the Jackson County community, Friends of Panthertown is in support of protecting the bears. Considering public sentiment, and based on our recent research and discussions, we believe the majority of our community and stakeholders are not comfortable opening up the Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Sanctuary to bear hunting, especially with the use of dogs.

We support the traditional recreational uses of Panthertown, as have been established by more than 30 years of public access and visitation. Bear hunting in Panthertown is not an activity we support. We recognize that fishing and hunting wildlife in Panthertown are activities regulated by NCWRC. With increased visitation and usage for recreation purposes, in addition to wanting to protect the bears, we think bear hunting could be dangerous in Panthertown, particularly with hunting dogs running loose across the forest with no concerns for boundaries.

The Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Sanctuary is surrounded by residential developments and adjacent game lands that have affected the bears’ natural territory. We are in support of protecting and maintaining the bear sanctuary for the bears who live here, and we are asking NCWRC to not permit bear hunts in Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Sanctuary.

Panthertown is designated as a Blue Ridge National Heritage Area natural heritage site, protected by the North Carolina Wilderness Resources Commission as part of the Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Sanctuary, and is recognized by The Wilderness Society as a Mountain Treasures Area. Panthertown contains a rare high elevation Southern Appalachian mountain bog, and features a public trail system with more than 30 miles of recreational trails maintained by Friends of Panthertown.

In addition to being a bear sanctuary, Panthertown is the source of the outstanding resource headwaters of the East Fork of the Tuckaseigee River, where sustainable fly fishing is also a popular activity on a catch and release section of the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail here in Jackson County, home of the Trout Capital of North Carolina.

As for solutions, human-bear interactions dropped off significantly during 2020-2021 after Friends of Panthertown installed two bear-proof food storage vaults in Panthertown during the summer of 2020. We have plans to continue installing bear-proof food storage vaults in strategic locations to further reduce risks, and we have also increased our educational outreach, sharing public information about how to avoid encounters with the bears when visiting Panthertown. We encourage all who visit Panthertown to store their food and scented items properly, follow Bear Wise and Leave No Trace best practices, and know Panthertown is a protected bear sanctuary. The U.S. Forest Service is considering requiring overnight campers to also use hard sided bear canisters when in Panthertown. We think that is a better solution and fully support their plans.

To summarize our position in response to public sentiment concerning bears in Panthertown:

  • We are in support of continuing to protect the black bears in the Panthertown Valley and Bonas Defeat areas of Nantahala National Forest in Jackson County.
  • We do not support bear hunting in the Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Sanctuary.
  • We do not support the NCWRC proposed rule change (15A NCAC 10D .0106 BEAR SANCTUARIES) to allow bear hunting by permit in the Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Sanctuary.
  • We do not believe allowing bear hunts in the Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Sanctuary will solve human-bear interaction concerns or is an appropriate solution given Panthertown’s traditional and current recreational uses.

You have until January 31 to share your comments with NCWRC. Please visit to learn more, or to make a donation in support of the conservation and stewardship of Panthertown.

On behalf of the bears in Panthertown, we thank you.


To contact individual Commissioners:
Download Roster/Contact List (Panthertown is in NCWRC District 9)

2022-2023 Fishing, Hunting, Trapping, and Game Land Regulation Proposals
The public comment period for proposed 2022-2023 fishing, hunting, trapping, game land, and other regulated activities regulations, will be open from December 1, 2021 through January 31, 2022.  (see page 13 – Bear G13.)

Make a Public Comment

Rule Text for All Proposed Changes (pdf)

Click on the link below to view fiscal notes for proposed regulation changes:
Game Lands fiscal note (see page 5 – 15A NCAC 10D .0106 BEAR SANCTUARIES)

Public Hearing Information:
All in-person public hearings have been cancelled. A pre-recorded presentation of the proposed regulations will be posted to this webpage soon. Please check back often.

Virtual Hearing
Date: January 20, 2022
Time:  7:00 p.m.
Register online by clicking here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Or, join by phone toll free (888-788-0099 or 877-853-5247) using webinar ID: 160 983 2165. 
Submit a Comment: 
Mail written comments to Rule-making Coordinator, 1701 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1701  

Public Comment Period Closing Date: January 31, 2022

Subjecting a Proposed Rule to Legislative Review 
Written objections to proposed rules can be submitted to the Rules Review Commission. If the Rules Review Commission receives written and signed objections from 10 or more individuals clearly requesting review by the legislature and the Rules Review Commission approves the rule, the rule will become effective as provided in G.S.150B-21.3(b1). The Rules Review Commission will receive written objections until 5:00 p.m. on the day following the day the Rules Review Commission approves the rule. The Rules Review Commission will receive those objections by mail, delivery service, hand delivery, or facsimile transmission.



  1. Bear hunting is not compatible with the large numbers of hikers and campers in Panthertown. Will very likely result in gunshot wounds or death and also attacks by hunting dogs.

    1. What is the concentration of bear? When I was first allowed into Panthertown after it became public many years ago I was told that the Forest Service used the area to relocate rogue bear. In my trips there, I encountered no bear.

      Hunting should be allowed only if necessary to balance the eco-system

  2. Bear sanctuaries are important. Have a back up plan to force a limit on the number of permits and the length of a possible season.

    1. Bear slaughter in a bear sanctuary? Who thinks this is a good idea? So for years our bears have lived there, raised their families there, and now they are to be shot,wounded, and killed ? Insane! Bears are a natural part of out environment here. They deserve better than being chased by dogs, run up a tree, and shot until they fall to the ground. Our wild animals deserve a safe place to live. Not being used as live targets for target practice. They are no danger to anyone . Everyone in the area should be notified, especially the neighborhoods around the valley.

  3. Having had homes on the border of Panthertown ( Fox Run Ridge) I find the idea of bear hunting absolutely abhorrent. If the bear population is becoming too large, trap and remove some! It is not a place for hunting and shooting.

  4. This is a preserve, an unspoiled paradise for outsdoors people. I have never encountered a bear in my many excursions. I firmly oppose hunting of bears unless there is a true safety concern

  5. Hunting with dogs is definitely not compatible with campers and hikers!! Especially if people have their own dogs with them, not to mention folks riding horses ! This proposal is just asking for trouble:( someone will get hurt or worse. Panther town is a SANCTUARY for bears and humans alike, leave it that way!

  6. There is more than enough public
    Land that allows bear hunting in the region. Allowing bear hunting permits in a bear sanctuary feels like a joke. I wish it was. Panther town is a heavily visited region and having bear hunters and dogs hunting in a heavily visited area feels like an accident waiting to happen. I strongly disagree with allowing these permits to happen.

  7. Save the bears home in Panthertown. As more and more development happens destroying so much of our natural mountain beauty, the bears need a sanctuary, as do we.

  8. I do not condone hunting black bear in or around panther town . Please let me know what I can do to prevent this unnecessary cruelty from taking place

  9. This land is multi use land , not just for the rich hikers but for the tax paying locals that hunt also. Bears are very over populated, I think it’s a great idea.

    1. We are tax paying locals who have lived in the Panthertown area for over 21 years. WE OPPOSED HUINTING

  10. The Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Refuge encompasses the entire part of the Nantahala National Forest we know and love as “Panthertown”. It is cris-crossed with trails lovingly maintained by dedicated volunteers and hiked by more and more enthusiasts, of every age and social identity, every year, numbers which have actually increased during the pandemic. It is a haven and sanctuary for an incredibly diverse animal and plant population which exists without conflict with their human visitors, including black bears. The Forest Service, which apparently suggested opening the Refuge to black bear hunting, has so far presented no valid evidence that the bear population is too large for this Refuge, or that Bear-Human interactions in this Refuge are reaching a concerning level. Bear hunting involves, by custom and necessity, high-powered rifles with lethal range in excess of a mile, along with packs of unrestrained hunting dogs, and poses a clear and irreconcilable risk both to humans but also the other animal and plant residents of our Refuge. The entire remaining hundreds of square miles of North Carolina National Forest not designated as Bear Refuges are available for seasonal hunting; there is no valid reason to violate this Refuge to create more opportunities to kill bears and endanger others. There are fewer and fewer opportunities every day for everyone to peacefully interact with our beautiful and precious outdoor environments, and Panthertown needs to be protected at all costs. I urge everyone who really cares about this wonderful part of our Forest heritage to contact the US Forest Service, Nantahala Ranger District, and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission to object in the strongest and most unequivocal terms their OBJECTION to approval of that part of proposed Rule G13 allowing Black Bear hunting in the Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Refuge.

  11. Rules are one means of managing resources to serve the recreational and economic interests of the state’s citizens. We rely on the public’s cooperation and assistance in this endeavor. Thus, we urge you to participate by commenting at a public hearing or submitting your comments in writing.


    I’m writing to oppose G13. No hunting in Bear sanctuaries!

    Who ever declared bears a game animal anyway? Bears are NOT game animals in my opinion. Instead, they are highly intelligent and social creatures that need our protection.

    I’ve almost 100 acres in bear country in Henderson county and have observed them for more than 40 years. Never once have I felt threatened by a bear, even after surprising them. They simply run away. My nearby neighbors have had similar experiences. I personally have observed a bear sitting and enjoying a sunset. Only highly intelligent creatures and humans do that. Bear cubs stay with their mother for years. Only highly intelligent creatures and humans allow their children to stick around that long.

    Bear hunting is the most inhumane activity allowed by law and only the lowest of humanity participate, with few exceptions. Much like dog fighting, it should be illegal all over our state/country and participants charged and locked up.

    My opinion comes from a lifetime of observation and conversation. I’m 69 years old and spent 30+ years as a telephone service technician. During those years I met and talked with many bear hunters. Living where I do, I encounter them every fall and winter. These are not nice people. They are arrogant, narrow minded, and violent as individuals and downright nasty as a group. They are dangerous and threatening. They don’t care about me, or my land. They are not sportsmen. Riding around in a truck with sophisticated technology; GPS tracking devices on their dogs, land and road maps on screens in their trucks, CB radios to stay in touch with their groups, all for the merciful less slaughter of a bear. That is not sport! It’s sickening is what it is, and the participation in this activity is sick and inhumane.

    To chase a bear with dogs for 5 to 25 miles, and more, until it trees; following your sophisticated equipment to the precise location and shooting the bear out of the tree until it falls to the ground amongst the dogs, is totally unethical and inhumane. Yet, the North Carolina wildlife commission allows this activity and actually encourages it.

    As a lifelong tax paying citizen of this state, I resent the North Carolina wildlife commission for allowing bear hunting as a legal activity. And you have the outrageous gall to suggest opening up three of our pristine sanctuaries to the slaughter of hundreds of innocent bears.
    Who, besides the irreverent hunters wants this? This isn’t management. It’s you, bending to the lobbyist who speak for the hunters. Well, this is my voice speaking for the bears.

    I listened to your public comments tonight and wanted to speak, however time didn’t allow.
    It was about 10 to 1 against your proposed G13. The online comments that I’ve read are about the same. It’s my understanding that you are using statistics gathered in 2005 for your heinous proposal. That’s hilarious, and at the same time it’s embarrassing to the Wildlife people for being a part of such a sham. You people should be ashamed!

    Why this proposed bear hunt? It’s certainly not because of bear over population as I listened to neighbors of Panthertown sanctuary who see few bears, if at all. Also one lady who has spent 24 years hiking and riding her horse in Panthertown and has never seen a bear. I can only assume that Pisgah and Standing Indian bear sanctuaries are much the same.

    Bears do not threaten people unless the people make a mistake, like messing with a cub; as I witnessed my Dad do at Heintooga picnic area off of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the early 1960s. The man closed the trashcan lid on two bear cubs! I was just a child, and remember that well.

    The demand for bear parks fuels the lucrative illegal black market. Zero mention of this tonight. I’ve read that years ago, a dead black bear in Asia was worth $100,000 even more in South Korea. That price has probably doubled or tripled. It’s lead your own employees to become involved in the illegal killing of bears for sheer greed. Yes, I’m aware of those who use their positions with the Wildlife commission for monetary gain. The news, and internet is full of incidences of local involvement in the illegal selling of bear parts, and the North Carolina Wildlife commission is part of it. Seems to me like you are encouraging it by the the G13 proposal.

    It’s my plan to send this communication on to Governor Cooper and ask him to look in to your heinous proposal.

    It makes me sick throughout my entire being, and angry that bear hunting is even allowed!

    If the statement that I opened with from your own website is true, the overwhelming majority of people today are Bear lovers and not bear hunters. Please honor our wishes and do not allow bear hunting in Panthertown, Pisgah or Standing Indian Bear sanctuaries.
    Oppose G 13

    Vervin W. Stamey

  12. Allowing bear hunting in a bear sanctuary – is this a joke?… Panthertown has to be the most inappropriate, not to mention dangerous, location for such activity. Hike, bike and enjoy nature at your own risks. NO to bear hunting!

  13. Tragic to even consider this. Hunting is never a humane or logical solution when there are other methods to control population. Shame on the Forest Seevice with the lack of evidence of the issue to
    Begin with. Using dogs is especially abhorrent as it uses another species, subjects them to inhumane living conditions and injury. Clearly the public is alarmed, concerned and against this. Leave nature alone.

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