North Carolina

‘Dangerous’ bears on the rise prowling Blue Ridge Parkway camp sites, rangers warn

“Dangerous” bears are on the rise prowling the Blue Ridge Parkway and its camp sites, rangers warn.

“Bears are very active along the parkway at this time,” according to a National Park Service alert. “Bears are wild animals that are dangerous and unpredictable. Do not approach bears or allow them to approach you!”

The alert coincides with the recent reopening of the parkway after Hurricane Florence -- and the beginning of fall foliage season in October, when tens of thousands of visitors are expected. The entire 469-mile parkway reopened by Sept. 21, the Watauga Democrat reported.

In their bear alert, parkway officials reminded that it is illegal to “willfully” approach a bear within 50 yards, “or any distance that disturbs or displaces a bear.”

“Mandatory food storage regulations also are in effect at all park campgrounds, picnic areas and backcountry campsites,” officials said in the alert.

“All food, coolers, utensils, cook stoves and other food related items must be stored out of sight in a closed vehicle or in a bear proof food storage locker,” according to the alert. “Never leave food or coolers unattended -- even for a minute!”

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 this summer, the Observer previously reported.

“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.”

If you see a bear, leave with your food and trash, the Forest Service says on its website. If a bear starts to approach, “do not run, but move away slowly and get into a vehicle or building,” the Forest Service recommends.

If the bear attacks, “do not play dead,” according to the Forest Service. “Try to fight back and act aggressively.”

“Carrying EPA registered bear spray is another way to combat bear attacks,” the Forest Service says.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak

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