The Nantahala National Forest is warning visitors going to Panthertown on the Nantahala Ranger District to be on the look-out for black bears.
The warning comes after recent bear encounters in Panthertown. No injuries have been reported. Bears have stolen food multiple times with people present and reportedly shredded a tent even though no food was inside. Reports have indicated that the bears often stay for one to two hours at the location of the incident and in one case a bear was undeterred by bear spray. Most incidents have occurred at the Panthertown Shelter.
This time of the year black bears are opportunistically looking for food that campers and trail users bring on their trips. According to District Ranger Mike Wilkins, “One or more bears has become used to people due to the close proximity of residential neighborhoods and the regular use of the same camping spots over and over. It is early in the year and once there is more natural food available across the forest the bears should be less aggressive.”
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.