Portions of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and Appalachian National Scenic Trail reopen to camping

Release Date: Oct 2, 2018  

Contact(s): Barry Garten (276) 783-5196

(October 2, 2018) Marion, Va – The USDA Forest Service has reopened the portions of the Mount Rogers National Recreation high country and a segment of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST) that had been temporarily closed to camping due to bear activity. Since the time of the closure on August 30, the Forest Service and partner agencies have monitored the area and have seen no further issues with black bear activity and human encounters.  However, habituated bears may still be active in the area, so visitors should remain alert.

All campers should carry and store their food in bear canisters or store their food in established bear boxes or electric fences out of bears reach.  Bear boxes are located at Thomas Knob Shelter, Wise Shelter, and near the ANST just west of Rhododendron Gap on the Crest Trail. Electric fences are located near Rhododendron Gap. Additional bear boxes will be installed soon.

“We encourage visitors to use all precautions to avoid attracting bears during their visit,” states Area Ranger Barry Garten.  “This is especially important as we go into the fall season when bears are in search of food to prepare for winter. The Forest Service continues to work with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Grayson Highlands State Park, the National Park Service, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club to evaluate options to address the human-bear conflict issue.”

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are home to an increasing healthy population of black bears. So that visitors can enjoy the national forest, and the bears and other wildlife that make their home there, it is important that visitors follow certain guidelines regarding bears and food storage.

Backcountry visitors should be familiar with Leave No Trace methods to secure their food.  Following these methods dramatically reduces the risk of human-bear conflicts.

Bears are opportunists by nature. They prefer to feed on natural food sources, such as berries, nuts, and insects, but will feed on food unsecured by humans. Garbage and food odors attract bears to residential areas, dump sites, campsites, and picnic areas.

Once a bear develops a pattern of gaining access to human food sources, it can become habituated to those food sources. This behavior creates safety concerns for humans and the bear due to changes in its natural behavior.

Following are guidelines that will help reduce the chances of a close encounter with a bear:

  • Never leave food or trash unattended.
  • Use other Leave No Trace techniques.
  • Never cook or store food in or near your tent.
  • Pack out all garbage including fruit rinds and cores, empty cans or jars, and aluminum foil used for grilling or cooking. 
  • Pick up all food scraps around your site.
  • Never feed a bear or other animals.
  • Never approach a bear.
  • If a bear approaches your site, pack up your food and trash. If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, or by banging pans together. If the bear is persistent, move away slowly to your vehicle or other secure area.
  • Keep children close at hand.
  • Keep pets properly confined to a leash.
  • Always respect bears and admire them from a distance.

For more information about visiting the area, please contact the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area at (276) 783-5196.

For more information about bear safety visit www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/bear/living-with-black-bears/  or  www.appalachiantrail.org/bears or bearwise.org