Opinions about bears on the Appalachian Trail vary from "you'll never see one" to "bears are more afraid of you than you are of them" to "bears will rip your tent and bags apart to get your food."
Each perspective is a little bit true; none is absolutely correct.
Wild bears of any color -- black, brown or white -- have even worse table manners than thru-hikers. If you leave your food within reach, bears are known to help themselves.
If you frighten or startle a bear, its first impulse might be to defend itself or its cubs. Or, it might run. The point is you never know which it will be.
Back in the Old Days of 1975, I built a log cabin with a friend on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. We ventured deep into the woods to select, cut, trim and haul trees back to our camp. I often asked what I/we should do if we encountered an angry brown bear.
The answer was always the same. They said, "Yell 'RHUBARB!!!' as loud as you can." Evidently, that would occupy your mind's last few remaining moments, in lieu of sheer terror.
Thankfully, the U.S. Forest Service has more worthwhile tips on how avoid or handle encounters with bears. They are all about bear canisters.
They remind backcountry users in North Carolina that bear canisters are required in:
areas of the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina.
A camping closure in the nearby Graveyard Fields area is still in effect, though the area remains open for day use.
All bear canisters must be commercially made; constructed of solid, non-pliable material manufactured for the specific purpose of resisting entry by bears.
"We've had numerous reports of bears having success in acquiring improperly stored as well as hung food, reinforcing that bear canisters are the best way to deter hungry bears," said Pisgah District Ranger Derek Ibarguen. "Visitor safety is of the utmost importance and canisters are the most effective way to safely store food and reduce bear-human conflicts."
These steps were taken after consultation with the N.C. Wildlife Commission because of human safety concerns following a situation where a bear entered a tent and removed a hiker's backpack earlier this year.
For more information visitors are encouraged to call the Pisgah Ranger District at (828) 877-3265.
Tags: Attractions, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, News, Closings, US Forest Service, Closures, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Conservation, and Safety
Published Aug 16, 2014.
The Forest Service's Bear Necessities for safety in the woods include not leaving food outside and what to do if you encounter a bear in the woods.
Published Aug 16, 2014.
Bear encounters can be pleasant or dangerous. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has safety tips about what to do if you meet Yogi on the trail.
Published Feb 4, 2014.