Visitors to Panthertown on the Nantahala National Forest are asked to take precautions to avoid bears after recent reports of increased encounters.
No injuries have been reported. Encounters include bears stealing packs and riffling through camping supplies and gear. The bears will often stay in the area of the incident for multiple hours.
According to District Ranger Mike Wilkins, "Bears become used to people due to the close proximity of residential neighborhoods and the regular use of the same camping spots. Once there is more natural food available across the forest the bears should be less aggressive."
While black bear attacks on people are rare, such attacks have resulted in human fatalities.
To avoid bear attacks, experts recommend the following:
* Keep your dog on a leash in areas where bears are reported.
* If you notice a bear nearby, pack up your food and trash immediately and vacate the area as soon as possible.
* If a bear approaches, move away slowly; do not run. Get into a vehicle or a secure building.
* If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, by banging pans together, or throwing rocks and sticks at it.
If you are attacked by a black bear, try to fight back using any object available. Act aggressively and intimidate the bear by yelling and waving your arms. Playing dead is not appropriate.
Visitors are encouraged to prevent bear interactions by practicing these additional safety tips:
* Do not store food in tents.
* Properly store food and scented items like toothpaste by using a bear-proof container.
* Clean up food or garbage around fire rings, grills, or other areas of your campsite.
* Do not leave food unattended.
* Never run away from a bear-back away slowly and make lots of noise.
A reminder to forest visitors that bear canisters are required in the Shining Rock Wilderness in the Pisgah National Forest. Since this requirement has been in place the number of successful black bear attempts to getting campers food has significantly decreased. Remember to be bear aware.
For more tips, visit http://go.usa.gov/czWbW or go to www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc and click on "Learn about Bear Safety"
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