This summer's early drought has prompted the London Ranger District in the Daniel Boone National Forest, including all campgrounds around Laurel River Lake, to implement a mandatory food storage order in an effort to prevent possible interactions between bears and visitors.
The drought has impacted the availability of black bears' natural foods, and as those foods have diminished, bear sighting reports have increased considerably in the London Ranger District.
Forest visitors must store food inside a hardtop vehicle or bear-resistant container when not cooking or eating. Burning or burying food, trash or any other bear attractant is prohibited.
Backcountry campers must suspend food and garbage at least 10 feet off the ground and four feet out from any tree or pole.
"In most areas of eastern Kentucky, this summer's wild berry crop disappeared quickly," said Steven Dobey, bear biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources."This is a very important food source for this time of year and with it gone, bears are roaming extensively in search of alternate foods."
July is also the end of the breeding season for bears so, in conjunction with the shortage of natural foods, the natural tendency for male bears to travel is at a peak right now. Ultimately, this creates a heightened potential for human-bear interactions, and often in places typically not frequented by bears.
"Just 10 years ago it was a rarity to even see a black bear in Kentucky," said Dobey. "Today, there is potential for regular sightings in any county east of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Contrary to popular belief, bears were not stocked in eastern Kentucky. Their natural return is a true wildlife success story and a testament to the overall health of Kentucky's forests."
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