The National Park Service has announced the closure of an eight-mile segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. This decision comes in response to incidents involving visitors feeding and trying to interact with a young bear. The section of the park that has been closed is near the Lane Pinnacle Overlook, located approximately 12 miles northeast of Asheville’s city center. The closure occurs during autumn, a peak time for tourists to visit the park to view the fall foliage.
Superintendent Tracy Swartout emphasized the closure is a precautionary measure to protect the bear and park-goers. The concerning behavior of visitors drawing bears closer with food and garbage has escalated the risk of dangerous encounters. By closing this part of the parkway, authorities aim to discourage the bear’s interest in the area and prevent potential harm to the visitors or the bear itself.
The closed portion of the parkway will be off-limits for an indeterminate period, with officials stating it will remain so until they deem it safe to reopen.
During the fall, bears enter a phase of hyperphagia, where they actively forage for up to 20 hours daily in preparation for winter hibernation. The National Park Service notes that bears are more inclined to seek out human food during this time, increasing the likelihood of bear-human interactions. To mitigate this risk, officials urge park visitors and residents to keep food secured and out of sight, adhering to the park’s bear safety guidelines.
Bears are commonly found in many counties across North Carolina and generally pose no danger unless provoked or fed by humans. These encounters offer a unique opportunity to observe one of the state’s largest native mammals, but it’s essential to maintain a safe distance. A bear spotted in your backyard is likely just passing through in search of a mate or a new territory and will only settle if it finds a consistent food source.
If you encounter a bear, it’s crucial to remain calm. Instead of running, make your presence known by speaking loudly, clapping your hands, and waving your arms to appear larger, all while making significant noise. Gradually back away, keeping children close and pets securely confined. Avoid approaching, surrounding, or cornering the bear. In close encounters, continue to back away slowly while making noise.
Feeding bears or any wild animals is a serious mistake. It’s not just direct feeding that’s a problem; unintentional feeding through accessible garbage, food scraps, pet food, and other human food sources can also attract bears. Secure these items in sturdy, bear-proof locations.
Bears may climb trees if frightened by dogs or people in residential areas. In such situations, keeping the area clear of people will encourage the bear to descend and leave, especially after dark when it feels less threatened.