North Carolina black bears steal hiking backpacks, US Forest Service warns

Hikers and campers are cautioned to take precautions when visiting a North Carolina national forest after a series of incidents involving bears stealing backpacks and groceries.

The US Forest Service said in a statement Friday that it had received “reports of increased bear encounters” on four Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Trails in the Nantahala National Forest. Spots include the Haoe Lead Trail, Stratton Bald Trail, Hangover Lead Trail, and Hangover Trail.

Black bears look for food that hikers bring with them this time of year.

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“Encounters include bears stealing food and backpacks,” the North Carolina Forest Service wrote on Facebook. “The bears often stay in the incident area for several hours, possibly days, depending on the availability of food sources. At this time of year, black bears opportunistically seek food that campers and hikers bring with them on their travels.”

The latest warnings came days after “aggressive bear activity” caused the agency to close an area of ​​the Appalachian Trail for camping in Tennessee. Hiking is still allowed.

Visitors should not leave food unattended and store it in bear-proof containers, advised the forest service.

The forest service recommends five tips to avoid encounters with bears:

  • Do not store food in tents.
  • Store food and fragrant items like toothpaste properly by using a bear-proof container.
  • Clean up groceries or rubbish in areas of your campsite.
  • Do not leave food unattended.
  • Keep your dog on a leash in areas where bears are reported.

Black bears look for food that hikers bring with them this time of year.
(iStock)

Although no injuries have been reported in the North Carolina wilderness, when attacked by a black bear, people should try to fight back with whatever object they can.

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“Act aggressively and intimidate the bear by screaming and waving your arms,” ​​said the forest service. “Playing dead is not appropriate.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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