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Here at ENO we've heard about the recent bear attack involving a father and son camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. First of all, we're glad that they made it through this incident and that the young man is on the mend! Even though the pair did everything right, this unusual occurance is a stark reminder that black bears aren't the cuddly critters they're sometimes mistaken for. Here are some tips we can all put into practice to promote safety for ourselves and these amazing creatures as we enjoy the mountains!
1. Don’t Leave a Bear a Treat.
Bears will go for the easiest food source. If a bear finds food at picnic areas, campsites, or other commonly visited places it will begin to return to the site expecting food. Bear issues commonly arise when they start to expect food from humans, or certain areas. This may result in the bear being put down. So if you pack a snack in, then pack it on out (or just eat it).
2. Stow that scent.
It is best to cook and eat away from where you’ll be sleeping. Store everything with a scent away from camp and hang it whenever possible. Click here for Leave No Trace recommendations on hanging a bear bag. Don’t think you can hide your midnight snack from a bears nose either (you’re not that sneaky.)
3. Don’t invade the bear bubble.
If you see a black bear don’t get too close. You’re to close if your presence changes the bear’s behavior or if you are within 50 yards. If you’re lucky enough to spot one from farther than 50 yards, and it hasn’t noticed you, enjoy from a distance.
4. Stand up and be scary.
If you are approached by a black bear don’t run, or play dead (that tells the bear you’re something that needs to be chased, or eaten). Make sure it has a way to escape and be your most intimidating self. Make loud noises, throw rocks, wave your arms and make yourself look as big as possible. In very rare situations a bear may continue to advance. In this case, fight back using any objects that you can.
5. Keep an eye out for closures.
If you’re hiking inside park boundaries, you may see campsite closure signs in areas that have recently experienced particularly bold or frequent bear activity. Bears, like any wild animal, can be unpredictable, so even if you’re doing everything right it’s still best to avoid these areas.
For more info on how to stay safe in bear country, check out Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s guide: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/black-bears.htm