Bear Reports at Table Rock Picnic Area

Friday, July 28, 2017

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Pisgah National Forest staff report several recent instances of bear encounters in the Table Rock Picnic Area on the Grandfather Ranger District. Please exercise caution in this area, and always be aware of your surroundings.

Black bears in the wild are opportunistic, feeding on whatever is readily available. Food odors and improperly stored garbage will attract bears to campsites and picnic areas, even when humans are around. Though bears are naturally afraid of humans, bears habituated to human food can begin to associate human scents with the reward of food. Due to this, bears can become a threat to humans, property, and themselves. Remember, a fed bear is a dead bear.

You can protect yourself and protect bears by storing trash and food in safe locations during your visit. This can be done by keeping items in bear-proof canisters, inside trailers, and in the trunk of a vehicle. Food and trash left in passenger areas of vehicles can still attract bears and potentially lead to property damage. Do not leave food or coolers unattended. Never store scented items in your tent, including toothpaste, deodorant, beverages, or snacks. Pick up all garbage around your site, including inside fire rings, grills, and tables and properly store with your food or dispose in a bear-proof trash receptacle.

If a bear is observed nearby, pack up food and trash immediately and vacate the area. If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts or making noise. If a bear approaches, do not run, but move away slowly and get into a vehicle or building. In the event of a bear attack, do not play dead. Try to fight back and act aggressively. Carrying EPA registered bear spray is another way to combat bear attacks.

If you encounter a bear while on the forest, please inform the district office. You can find more information by visiting

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Armed Suspect Search Closes Portions of Pisgah Ranger District

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

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On Saturday, July 22, 2017, Transylvania County Sheriff’s Deputies received a BOLO from Henderson County in reference to a suspect vehicle in a breaking and entering in Mills River near the Transylvania and Henderson County Line. Later this same morning, Patrol Deputies with the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office located a vehicle matching the description in Pisgah National Forest, just off U.S. Highway 276 North. When a patrol deputy attempted to initiate a vehicle stop on Avery’s Creek Road, the suspect refused to stop and a vehicle pursuit ensued.

The suspect continued on Avery’s Creek Road, and at one point quickly exited his vehicle, and stole a mountain bike, while pointing a firearm (unknown handgun) at the victim / owner. The suspect placed the stolen bike in his vehicle, and the vehicle pursuit continued. TCSO Deputies were unable to make contact at that instance due to the crowded nature of hikers and campers on the roadway. The suspect then blocked the roadway, parking his vehicle sideways, got on the stolen mountain bike, and fled into the woods.

A perimeter was established in the area, and the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office Special Response Team (SRT) was called out to attempt to locate the suspect. Other agencies assisting in the manhunt include the Brevard Police Department, the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement, the NC State Highway Patrol (including helicopter support), the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office (including a Special Response Team), the NC State Bureau of Investigation, and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. At the time of this press release, the suspect has not been located.

The suspect has been positively identified as Phillip Michael Stroupe II (photo and updates here), Date of Birth 7/25/1978 (38 years old), with a last known address of Weaverville, NC. He is described as a white male, approximately 5-feet 8-inches tall, with a small build; he has a shaved head and a large distinct tattoo on his neck just under his chin. HE IS CONSIDERED ARMED AND DANGEROUS. The suspect has a history of violence and resisting law enforcement. He has outstanding warrants in Buncombe County for kidnapping, and he also has pending charges in Yancey County.

If anyone has any information, please contact the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office at (828) 884-3168.

The latest closure information:

Highway 276 on the Pisgah Ranger District and Davidson River Road (#475) have now reopened.

Attractions along Highway 276 are now open except for the Cradle of Forestry. Sliding Rock is open but restrooms are closed and no lifeguards are on duty today. Regular operations will resume tomorrow.

Remaining closed are North Mills River Campground, Wash Creek Group Horse Camp, Yellow Gap Road, and Wash Creek Road due to continued law enforcement activities in those areas.

Numerous law enforcement agencies led by Transylvania County Sheriff's Office are engaged in a search for a suspect who is known to be armed and dangerous.

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Pisgah National Forest issues Warning about Black Bears in the Pink Beds Vicinity

Friday, July 21, 2017

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The Pisgah National Forest is warning visitors going to the Pink Beds in the Pisgah Ranger District to be on the look-out for black bears.

The warning comes after a recent bear encounter was reported by campers in the Pink Beds. The encounter resulted in minor property damage and no injuries. The campers reported that the bear rummaged through their belongings after they heard the bear and left the site. The campers also reported that their food was stored in the trunk of their car.

This time of the year black bears are opportunistically looking for food that campers and trail users bring on their trips. While black bear attacks on people are rare, such attacks have resulted in human fatalities.

To avoid bear attacks, experts recommend the following:

* 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

The large number of bear sightings and encounters in the past few years has led to required use of bear-proof canisters in the Shining Rock and Graveyard Fields areas. Backcountry users must use commercially-made canisters constructed of solid, non-pliable material manufactured for the specific purpose of resisting entry by bears.

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Join Park Rangers for Smokies Service Days

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are excited to announce a new opportunity for the public to participate in service projects across the park. Park staff have coordinated ten Smokies Service Days on Saturdays beginning July 22 through October 28. Individuals and groups are invited to sign up for any of the scheduled service projects that interest them including unique opportunities to help care for park cemeteries, campgrounds, trails, roadsides, rivers, and native plant gardens.

This new volunteer program will help complete much needed work across the park and is ideal for those seeking to fulfill community service requirements including students, scout troops, civic organizations, visitors, families, and working adults with busy schedules. Each project will provide tasks appropriate for a wide range of ages. Volunteer projects will begin at 9:00 a.m. and last until noon on Saturday mornings. In addition, each project will be followed by an optional enrichment adventure to immerse participants in the abundant natural and cultural resources of the park.

Tools and safety gear, including gloves and high visibility safety vests, will be provided by park staff. Participants will be required to wear long sleeve shirts, long pants, closed-toe shoes, and bring water. Volunteers planning to stay for the optional enrichment activity must also bring a sack lunch.

Those interested in volunteering need to contact Project Coordinator, Logan Boldon, at 865-436-1278 or at least three days prior to the scheduled event date to register.

Service opportunities include:

July 22: Litter Patrol on the Spur
August 5: Gardening at Oconaluftee
August 12: Cemetery Rehabilitation at Elkmont
August 26: Campground Clean-Up at Elkmont
September 9: Campground Clean-Up at Smokemont
September 30: Trail Rehabilitation for National Public Lands Day
October 7: Farm Maintenance at Oconaluftee
October 14: Vegetation Management at Twin Creeks
October 21: Historic Preservation and Campground Clean-Up at Cataloochee
October 28: Litter Patrol and Stream Restoration at Deep Creek

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Smokies Reminds Visitors about Clingmans Dome Road Closure for the Solar Eclipse Event

Friday, July 14, 2017

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are reminding visitors that Clingmans Dome Road will be closed to all access beginning at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 19 through the evening of Monday, August 21 following the event. No overnight parking will be allowed at Clingmans Dome Parking Area or pull-offs, parking areas, and trailheads along the road during this time period. The road will be closed to all motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

During the closure, all trails, campsites and shelters in the backcountry will remain open, but backpackers should carefully consider the road closure when planning their itineraries. All vehicles must be clear of Clingmans Dome Road by 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 19. An interactive map is available on the park website at where backcountry users can view which backcountry campsites are within the path of totality.

Clingmans Dome Road is the only park road closed for the solar eclipse event, but park visitors should be prepared for high volume traffic across all park roads on Monday, August 21. Vehicles cannot stop in the roadway and must be parked in designated parking areas. If roads become congested or cause a safety concern, rangers may temporarily close them to additional inbound traffic until after the eclipse to reduce traffic congestion and allow access for emergency response. Visitors should expect temporary road closures throughout the day.

While the western half of the park lies within the path of totality, there are limited roads and parking areas available for travel. The risk of traffic jams and road closures is likely to increase throughout the morning of August 21. Managers suggest that visitors plan ahead to find the right eclipse experience for their situation. Many communities outside of the national park are hosting special events to observe and celebrate the celestial phenomena and those locales may be a great alternative for locals or travelers not wanting to risk traffic congestion in the park. Visit the park website for more information at

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Partnership Rekindled Between Smokies and the Oconaluftee Job Corps Center

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park and U.S. Forest Service officials gathered to announce the re-establishment of an important partnership between the Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center (JCCCC) and the park. The two organizations signed an agreement establishing a pathway for career developmental opportunities for youth.

“We are fortunate to have the Oconaluftee Job Corps Center in our backyard,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “This partnership will allow hard-working youth an opportunity to acquire important, trade skills as they work alongside park staff. These skills can help them transition into the workforce of tomorrow.”

This partnership will provide robust training opportunities for students which will enable them to support the National Parks commitment to the preservation and conservation of our public lands. Students will receive on-the-job training and hands-on experience by working jointly with national park staff in the protection of resources, prescribed fire, facility maintenance, and administration.

“We are truly elated to partner with the National Park Service,” said Oconaluftee Job Corps Center Director Jimmy Copeland. “This partnership brings education, awareness, and training opportunities to our youth thus creating pipelines for employment and resource awareness in their future. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an integral part of the success of our center and we are excited to work more closely with them in serving our communities.”

Over the past 30 years, students from the Oconaluftee JCCCC have assisted the park in the removal of exotic plant species, treatment of forest insect pests, facility construction, and wildland fire fighting. Some students have gone on to receive seasonal and permanent employment with the National Park Service. This renewed partnership will allow students to receive important certifications along with job training.

The Oconaluftee JCCCC is nestled within Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Cherokee, NC. The Job Corps program is the nation’s largest residential, educational, and career technical training program that prepares economically disadvantaged youth, ranging in age from 16 to 24, for productive employment. Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers (JCCCCs) are associated with national forests or grasslands and are operated by the Forest Service under an inter-agency agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor, which has the overall management of the Job Corps program.

USDA Forest Service operates 26 JCCCCs that span seven Forest Service regions, 23 national forests and grasslands and 17 states with a capacity to house, educate, and train over 5,000 enrollees. In addition to offering enrollees the opportunity to earn their high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, and enroll in college classes, JCCCCs offer vocational training in more than 30 occupations, many of which are pre-apprenticeship programs managed international trade unions.

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