Bear activity prompts closure of Mt. Mitchell campground
Increased activity by black bears has prompted the closing of the family campground at Mt. Mitchell State Park through Aug. 29, at least, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
Rangers at the park have recently responded to complaints of bears rummaging for food in the campground area, and similar activity has prompted the U.S. Forest Service to close campgrounds and trails in the adjacent Appalachian Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest.
Bear sightings are often more frequent in late August and September, as the animals range farther for food sources in anticipation of winter. Closing the campground will likely encourage bears to abandon the area to seek natural food sources.
The state park, which is on the highest peak in eastern North America, has installed wildlife-proof food storage bins and waste bins and has developed an improved sign and information system to educate visitors in western parks about safety in areas frequented by bears.
Visitors to all state parks can lessen their chances of bear encounters or encounter bears more safely by following a few simple rules:
· Put all food into wildlife-proof bins or store food, coolers, cooking and cleaning supplies, stoves, cosmetics and toiletries out of sight in a locked vehicle. Never store these items in vehicle passenger compartments, tents or backpacks.
· Don't hike alone, and make noise as you hike so that you won't surprise a bear.
· If you encounter a bear, stop, then back away slowly and leave the area. Do not feed the animal, do not surround it, and do not run.
· If a bear approaches, stand your ground or back away slowly. Do not run. Keep your group together, and make lots of noise and throw non-food items at the bear.
· Backcountry campers should carry bear-proof canisters or bags to suspend their food at least 15 feet off the ground and 5 feet from any tree trunk. Backpacks should be left empty and open outside of tents.