Black bears are onto the desperate measures that campers in the NC mountains and elsewhere have always been taught to scare them away, U.S. Forest Service officials said Monday.
Banging pots, blowing an air horn or yelling and screaming are no longer frightening bears from raiding campsites for food in the national forests in North Carolina, Nantahala District wildlife biologist Johnny Wills said in a US Forest Service news release.
The Forest Service has proposed a mandatory rule that overnight campers secure all food in bear-resistant containers on the Appalachian Trail in the national forests in North Carolina and Panthertown in the Nantahala Ranger District.
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The Appalachian Trail passes through the Appalachian, Nantahala, Cheoah and Tusquitee ranger districts, according to the Forest Service.
The problem of “bolder” bears seeking campers’ food has increased in recent years, particularly in the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests, the Forest Service said.
“Most encounters are at places where the public repeatedly camps in the general forest, rather than at campgrounds that are equipped with bear-proof trash cans.” according to the Forest Service news release. “Incidents include bears taking food and back packs, damaging tents and staying near inhabited campsites for hours.”
“Bears are very reluctant to give up an easy food source,” Wills said in the release. “... Using bear-resistant food containers is the surest way to deny bears access to human food.”
The Forest Service said in its news release that it has posted material at trail heads and on social media to educate visitors “on the importance of eliminating human behaviors that lead bears to see people as a source of food. However, potentially serious encounters by bears have continued to increase.”
Comment on the proposal to require bear-resistant food containers by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mailing a letter to Wills in care of Nantahala Ranger District, 90 Sloan Road, Franklin, NC 28734. Deadline is Sept. 19.