Mandatory bear canisters proposed for A.T. campers
Increased bear activity is prompting the U.S. Forest Service to consider broadening the list of places in Western North Carolina where overnight campers will be required to use bear canisters.
Under the proposal, all overnight campers on the Appalachian Trail’s route through North Carolina’s national forests and in the Nantahala Ranger District’s Panthertown Valley would be required to use bear-resistant food containers.
In the past few years, the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests have seen increasing instances of black bears exhibiting bold behavior over food, with most encounters happening at backcountry campsites rather than at campgrounds equipped with bear-proof trash cans. Bears have taken food from tents and backpacks, damaged tents and stayed near inhabited campsites for hours.
“Bears are very reluctant to give up an easy food source and they have not been discouraged by humans banging pots, blowing air horns, and yelling,” said Nantahala District Wildlife Biologist Johnny Wills. “Using bear-resistant food containers is the surest way to deny bears access to human food.”
The Forest Service has worked to educate visitors on bear safety using posters and postings on websites and social media. However, potentially serious encounters have continued to increase.