Bears in Panthertown

March 2017: The bears have awoken from their winter slumber and are looking for easy food sources.

** As recently as  March 12, 2017, we’ve received a report of a bold bear encounter at a camp site on Powerline Road close to Panthertown Valley Trail. The bear came within 15 feet of an occupied camp site and ran off when shouted at. No injuries have been reported. **

Panthertown is a sanctuary for American black bear (Ursus americanus)
Black Bear

Panthertown is part of a protected bear sanctuary.

Black bears live here and are protected here. This is their natural, wild habitat. Panthertown is their home.
Panthertown Valley is designated by the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission as part of the Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Sanctuary.
Bear hunting is prohibited anywhere in Panthertown.
Bears are currently active in Panthertown.
Due to increased bear activity in Panthertown and the surrounding forest,  U.S. Forest Service encourages campers and visitors to always practice bear safety.
Visitors can help prevent bear interactions by practicing these simple 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.

Panthertown Bear Sanctuary

See these past articles:

Protect the bears. Don’t feed the bears.

Black Bear in Tent (Source: Woodland Park Zoo)

Don’t give this bear a reason to visit your tent!

When visiting a national forest in North Carolina, including Panthertown and Bonas Defeat, seeing a black bear can be a thrill.
But, if the black bear rips through your tent for a granola bar, a bag of chips or a tube of toothpaste, a carefree camping trip can turn deadly.
Experts estimate the average weight of a black bear is around 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 following these safety guidelines.

Safety Checklist

Download Bear Safety ChecklistThe 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.
  • Bear SafetyDo 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.

Never approach a bear!

Black Bear on Little Green Mountain

Black bear encounter on Little Green Mountain (Photo submitted by Jack Tamorski, April 2014)

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. However, as more campers and visitors arrive in Panthertown and bear numbers increase, interactions will be unavoidable. For bears, Panthertown is a safe place to live, roam, and look for food. This is their home. Humans are the guests here.

Black bears are extremely powerful animals whose behaviors can be unpredictable.

Torn Tent (Source: NPS)

Food smells attract bears to your tent!

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 bear from a distance, alter your route of travel. When camping, keep all food stored properly and away from tents.

Never run from a bear!

Black Bear Visits Tent

Not the kind of visitor you want in your camp.

Slowly back away while facing the bear at all times. Running from a bear will often trigger its natural instinct to chase. If approached by a bear – stand your ground, raise your arms to appear larger, and yell until it leaves the area. Shouting and making noise may help.  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!

We recommend you review these Bear Smart tips on what to do if you encounter a black bear in Panthertown. If camping, we also recommend tips on securing food and garbage.

Friends of Panthertown*

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)

Panthertown Valley is a black bear sanctuary.

Panthertown Valley is a black bear sanctuary.

Bear Facts

Be bear aware in Panthertown!

Bear Encounters

An important reminder from the U.S. Forest Service

Bear Encounters

Bears love messy campsites.

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