Be Aware – Hunting is permitted on all National Forests in North Carolina
Hunting is permitted throughout the National Forests in North Carolina, including Panthertown. Hunters must have the proper licenses or permits needed to hunt. Hunting is a seasonal activity and state regulations for seasons, dates, and licensing apply on national forest land. For information about specific dates and times, please visit or call the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission at 919-707-0010.
The following information is provided by USFS National Forests in North Carolina
Safety Tips for Non-hunters visiting the National Forests
- Wear bright clothing. Make yourself more visible. Choose colors that stand out, like red, orange or green, and avoid white, blacks, browns, earth-toned greens and animal-colored clothing. Orange vests and hats are advisable.
- Don’t forget to protect your pet. Get an orange vest for your pet or bright colored scarf/bandana.
- Make noise. Whistle, sing or carry on a conversation as you walk to alert hunters to your presence. Sound carries well across mountain basins, and hunters should be listening for any sounds of animal movement.
- Be courteous. Once a hunter is aware of your presence, don’t make unnecessary noise to disturb wildlife. Avoid confrontations.
- If you do hear shooting, raise your voice and let hunters know that you are in the vicinity.
- Know when hunting seasons are. Continue to hike, but learn about where and when hunting is taking place.
- Know your own comfort level. If hunting makes you uneasy, choose a hike in a location where hunting is not allowed, such as a national park or a state park, or schedule your outings for Sundays.
At their February business meeting, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission voted unanimously to allow bear hunting by permit in Panthertown, Pisgah, and Standing Indian Bear Sanctuaries. The Commission also voted to amend the name of these areas from Designated Bear Sanctuaries to Designated Bear Management Areas.
Unless delayed by legislative review, as of August 1, 2022 the Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Sanctuary would no longer be designated as a bear sanctuary, or provide a safe haven for black bears. The rule has since been sent back to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission by the Rules Review Committee, and NCWRC has pulled the rule back and will be reconsidering.
Friends of Panthertown does not support bear hunting in Panthertown or the NCWRC rule changes (15A NCAC 10D .0106 BEAR SANCTUARIES) to allow bear hunting by permit here.
We do not believe allowing bear hunts in Panthertown will solve bear/human interaction concerns, or is an appropriate solution. View our objections.
To help prevent human/bear interactions, Friends of Panthertown installed two bear-proof food storage vaults in Panthertown Valley during the summer of 2020, and the U.S. Forest Service now requires bear-proof containers for overnight camping food storage. Plans are underway to install three additional vaults Panthertown Valley this year.
NCWRC reported they “received significant public comment” about the proposed rule change. 2,744 people sent comments to NCWRC. 86% were opposed. Hundreds of objections were also sent to the Rules Review Committee.
UPDATE (AS OF MAY 13): Rules Review Committee Meeting Agenda May 2022
F. Wildlife Resources Commission – 15A NCAC 10D .0106 (Duke)
- Final Rules for RRC Review
- Communication with agency Updated 5/13/2022
- Letter of Objection to Rule 15A NCAC 10D .0106 from April meeting
- Original Submission of Rules for RRC review *No changes
- Public Comments Updated 5/16/2022
- Letters Requesting Legislative Review Updated 5/16/2022
- Media Inquiry
UPDATE (AS OF MAY 27):
RELATED NEWS ARTICLES:
View video of a stakeholder meeting held April 5 in Murphy where a roomful of hunters in attendance discuss the issue with Sen. Kevin Corbin, Rep. Karl Gillespie and Wildlife Commission staff. Gillespie asked for a show of hands from those in support of the rule — and not a single hand went up.
- Panthertown bear hunting legislation stalled in committee
(8/2/22 Crossroads Chronicle)
- Bear canister rule aims to reduce bear conflicts in Panthertown
(6/9/22 The Biltmore Beacon)
- Bear canister rule aims to reduce bear conflicts in Panthertown
(6/6/22 The Mountaineer)
- Wildlife in the legislature: Bill seeks to halt expanded bear sanctuary hunting
(6/1/22 Smoky Mountain News)
- Bear canisters required in Panthertown Valley
(6/1/22 The Sylva Herald)
- Bill seeks to prevent new bear sanctuary hunts
(5/25/22 Smoky Mountain News)
- Panthertown Valley campers now required to use bear-resistant canisters or face fine
(5/24/22 Asheville Citizen-Times)
- Bear hunting rule change at Panthertown Valley faces new hurdle
(5/11/22 Crossroads Chronicle)
- Bear sanctuary hunting rule now up to legislators (part 2)
(5/4/22 Smoky Mountain News)
- Bear sanctuary hunting rule now up to legislators (part 1)
(4/28/22 Smoky Mountain News)
- Controversial rule change allows bear hunting in 3 former sanctuaries
(4/20/22 Mountain Xpress)
- Bear hunting on sanctuary stirs backlash far and wide
(4/20/22 The Sylva Herald)
- Bear hunting to proceed in Panthertown
(3/9/22 The Sylva Herald)
- Bear hunting measure moves forward at Panthertown sanctuary
(3/9/22 Crossroads Chronicle)
- Outcry as North Carolina allows bear hunting in sanctuaries
(3/5/22 The Guardian)
- Bear hunting approved for sanctuary areas
(3/2/22 Smoky Mountain News)
- Bear sanctuaries no more: NC Wildlife OKs hunting, critics plan to appeal decision
(3/1/22 Asheville Citizen-Times)
- Opinion: Bears are counting on us to protect sanctuaries
(2/14/22 Mountain Xpress)
- Opponents claw into bear hunting proposal at Panthertown Valley
(2/10/22 The Highlander)
- Balance of bear country: Wildlife Commission takes input on future of WNC bear sanctuaries
(1/26/22 Smoky Mountains News)
- Residents criticize NC Wildlife bear sanctuary proposal, say it’s a human problem.
(1/26/22 Asheville Citizen-Times)
- Opinion: Renowned bear researcher say ‘sanctuary’ bear hunting a bad idea
(1/23/22 Asheville Citizen-Times)
- Proposed hunting season changes impact Panthertown Bonas-Defeat bear sanctuary
(1/13/22 The Highlander)
- Hunting in bear sanctuaries on the table
(1/12/22 The Sylva Herald)
- A shift for sanctuaries: Wildlife Commission considers opening new areas to bear hunting
(1/12/22 Smoky Mountain News)
- Friends of Panthertown Objects To NCWRC Proposed Rule Changes; Does Not Support Bear Hunting In Panthertown
(1/7/2022 Friends of Panthertown)
- NC Wildlife Commission proposes opening 3 WNC bear sanctuaries to hunting
(1/5/22 Asheville-Citizen Times)
You may also wish to contact your legislative representatives.
The NCWRC has completely ignored the voice of the majority of people who spoke-out against the proposal. I believe the unanimous vote of approval for such a controversial proposal indicates the decision was pre-determined and the Wildlife Commissioners did nothing more than “rubber-stamp” NCWRC’s proposal. Non-hunters are taxpayers and stakeholders every bit as much as hunters. Our voices need to be heard. The vast majority of the public is not being represented in these decisions. We need a state agency representing our interests and it is certainly obvious that bears and other wildlife need an agency representing them. It is time for change!
How do we change. Does someone have to get shot? Friends of Panthertown have requested a review. Let’s write and request review also. We could reverse it. We are the owners of the land.
The locals near me are devastated. I agree with Bill in that this was a pre-determined outcome. I’m writing for a legislative review and will collect as many signatures as I can.