Reminder to North Carolina hikers: you are not alone.
An increasing number of black bear encounters lead the U.S. Forest Service to issue a warning for hikers visiting the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness inside Nantahala National Forest on Friday. No injuries have been reported, but wildlife experts urge visitors to avoid bears and take appropriate precautions.
"Encounters include bears stealing food and backpacks," the North Carolina arm of the Forest Service wrote on Facebook. "The bears will often stay in the area of the incident for multiple hours, possibly days, depending on availability of food sources. This time of the year black bears are opportunistically looking for food that campers and trail users bring on their trips."
Hikers on the popular Hangover and Stratton Bald trails should be particularly careful.
While black bear attacks on people are rare, such attacks have resulted in human fatalities.
The Forest Service recommends doing the following to prevent run-ins with bears:
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 areas of your campsite.
Do not leave food unattended.
Keep your dog on a leash in areas where bears are reported.
If you do encounter a bear, never run away from it. Instead, back away slowly and make lots of noise. Attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, by banging pans together, or throwing rocks and sticks at it. And remember, seeing a wild bear in its natural environment is a very special experience. It's up to us to act responsibly and respect their home.
For more information, visit FS.USDA.gov/visit/know-before-you-go/bears and BeBearAware.org.
Be careful out there, y'all!