Learn About Bear Safety

Black Bear

















Be BearWise Outdoors

When you visit the national forests, know what to do when you see a bear. This BearWise Outdoors flyer can help protect bears and yourself.

Bears by nature are opportunists. In the wild, they will feed on whatever is readily available. Food odors and improperly stored garbage will attract bears to campgrounds and picnic sites. Bears become used to human food if it is readily available. Although they are naturally afraid of humans, bears lose this fear as they begin to associate human scents with the reward of food. Black bears can become a threat to humans, property, and themselves—a pattern that normally ends with injury or death. Protect yourself and protect the black bears by storing trash and food in safe locations when you visit a national forest. Know before you go


Recent Bear Activity Reports

Bear sightings and repeated activity have been reported in the following areas:

  • Nantahala National Forest:
    • Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness
    • Standing Indian Campground
    • Panthertown Backcountry Area
    • Appalachian Trail- Wayah Bald to Tellico Gap
  • Pisgah National Forest:
    • Betty Creek Gap
    • Avery Creek Road (FSR 477)
    • Shining Rock Wilderness
    • Bent Creek
    • Graveyard Fields
    • Black Balsam
    • Sam's Knob
    • Table Rock Picnic Area
    • Crest Trail (Deep Gap Area) near Mt. Mitchell
    • Flat Laurel Creek


Food Storage

Bears are found nearly everywhere in the forests. Proper food and waste storage is essential:

  • Always hang or store food, cooking utensils, and scented items in a bear-proof canister or in the closed trunk of a vehicle. Never leave coolers, garbage, or food items unattended in your tent or campsite. If using a bear bag, make sure it is hung at least 100' from your site. Click here for tips on how to hang your food.
  • Check to see if the area you are visiting has any current regulations on food storage.
  • Keep a clean campsite by disposing of food scraps and garbage. Do not leave items in fire rings, grills, or areas around your site. Remember to wipe down tables and grills to eliminate food odor.
  • Always remember to Leave No Trace. If you see trash, pick it up!


Tips for Recreating in Bear Country

  • Avoid hiking, biking, or camping alone in the backcountry. Hike in groups, and make noise while you hike by talking, singing, or whistling. 
  • Never hike in the dark.
  • Do not attempt to approach or feed a bear. Remember, a fed bear is a dead bear!
  • If a bear is observed nearby, pack up your food and trash and leave the area immediately. If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, by banging pans together, or throwing rocks and sticks at it. There have been reports of bears who will completely ignore all attempts to scare them away.
  • Never run away from a bear. If one approaches, move away slowly and attempt to get into a secure vehicle or building.
  • If you are attacked by a bear, try to fight back. Playing dead is not appropriate. Act aggressively and try to intimidate the bear by making noise and waving your arms. 

Black Bears

Despite the name, the coat of a black bear isn’t always black. There are brown black bears, white black bears and even a blue glacier bear. Experts estimate the average weight of a black bear is 300 pounds. Despite their size, black bears are very agile tree climbers. During times of danger or threat, bear cubs will take shelter in trees.

Black Bear