This summer while enjoying a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, backpackers can continue to keep their food and packs out of reach of bears, protecting both themselves and the bears. For a third year the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has made backpacker safety and wildlife health a priority, providing $1,110 from its specialty license plate funds to help reduce black bear access to backpacker food along the Appalachian Trail.
Using the grant funds from the ATC, GSMNP staff and wildlife interns have repaired cables at the Mollies Ridge shelter and Cosby Knob shelter, which had become damaged by the elements and use over time. With proper and vigilant use by backpackers, the repaired storage system will continue to increase both visitor and bear safety by helping reduce the number of bears raiding shelter areas in the park. According to Bill Stiver, wildlife biologist with GSMNP, “as backpackers continue to hang their food, the cables protect hikers and campers,” Stiver continued, “Not to mention keeping the bears from learning to depend on human food.”
Friends of the Smokies and the ATC have also partnered to renovate many of the backcountry shelters along the A.T. in the Smokies and to support several other efforts to address trail maintenance and hiker safety.
Friends would like to thank both ATC and Friends’ license plate owners whose ownership helps support projects like these in GSMNP. “It’s all about preserving and protecting two great national park units, visitor experience and their natural resources,” said Holly Demuth, North Carolina director of Friends of the Smokies. “We do best when we work together.”
Hiking in the Smokies