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 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 https://www.ncwildlife.org/proposed-regulations.
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 panthertown.org 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.
|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.
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.
THE RULES REVIEW COMMISSION’S THURSDAY, JANUARY 20, 2022 MEETING WILL BE HELD IN-PERSON AT 1711 NEW HOPE CHURCH RD., RALEIGH, NC 27609 WITH LIMITED CAPACITY FOR THE PUBLIC. Additionally, Web and Telephone Conference will be available. 9am-5pm.