National Forests in NC Propose Required Bear Canisters for Overnight Campers on Appalachian Trail and in Panthertown

Release Date: Aug 13, 2018  

Contact(s): Johnny Wills, 828-524-6411 ext 452


August 10, 2018, Asheville, NC – Visitors to the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests have experienced an increasing number of encounters with black bears exhibiting bold behavior over food in the past few years.

Most encounters are at places where the public repeatedly camps in the general forest rather than at campgrounds that are equipped with bear-proof trash cans. Incidents include bears taking food and back packs, damaging tents, and staying near inhabited campsites for hours.

“Bears are very reluctant to give up an easy food source and they have not been discouraged by humans banging pots, blowing air horns, and yelling,” said Nantahala District Wildlife Biologist Johnny Wills. “Using bear-resistant food containers is the surest way to deny bears access to human food.”

The Forest Service has increased public awareness efforts by posting material at trail heads, on websites, and on social media in an effort to educate visitors on the importance of eliminating human behaviors that lead bears to see people as a source of food. However, potentially serious encounters by bears have continued to increase. Close interactions with bears must be reduced for the sake of the bears and for the safety of visitors.

The US Forest Service is seeking input on a proposal to require bear resistant food containers for all overnight campers on the Appalachian Trail located on the National Forests in North Carolina and in Panthertown on the Nantahala Ranger District. The Appalachian Trail passes through the Appalachian, Nantahala, Cheoah, and Tusquitee Ranger Districts.

Written comments should be submitted by September 19, 2018. Comments can be emailed to comments-southern-north-carolina-nantahala-nantahala@fs.fed.us or mailed to Johnny Wills, Nantahala RD Wildlife Biologist, Nantahala Ranger District, 90 Sloan Road, Franklin, NC 28734.

Please, for bear’s sake, be mindful of your sanitation and hygiene in the back country. Bears locate food sources by smell as well as sight. You can protect yourself and protect bears by storing trash and food in safe locations during your visit. Keep scented items in bear-proof canisters, inside trailers, and in the trunk of a vehicle. 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.

Report bear encounters to your local ranger district office. For more information, see our website at www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc.