Bearing Up in Bear Country

Few things grab the attention of hikers and campers more quickly than the mention of bears.

There’s a fear/fascination that people hold for the black bears of North Carolina. Even many state park rangers have never seen a black bear in the wild, but sightings are becoming more prevalent, especially in mountain and northeastern state parks. And, Grandfather Mountain State Park issued an alert last week about active bears on the lower end of the Daniel Boone Scout Trail and property of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation next door.

About this time of year, bears can make frequent appearances at Mount Mitchell State Park. In past years, the campground there has been closed for short periods to break a bear’s habit of cruising campsites for easy food.

Black bears are not interested in eating you – just the yummy stuff you brought with you. Rangers say the trick is to keep bears from associating people with food (or things that smell like food) and thereby risking their becoming aggressive. In bear country, campers’ food must be in a bearproof container available at some campgrounds or hung at least 150 feet away from your tent – five feet below a branch; five feet from the tree trunk; and at least 10 feet from the ground. Consider this also goes for toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, cosmetics, pet food, cooking and cleaning supplies and even stove fuel.

Never leave these things in a vehicle except in a locked trunk and don’t forget about those snacks you tucked into a backpack lying beside your tent. Bears love backpacks with snacks.

If a bear does stroll into camp, keep your distance, don’t argue with it and contact a ranger.

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