Rich Mountain Road reopens after bear scratch
After a monthlong closure enacted when a bear scratched a park visitor, Rich Mountain Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has reopened.
During the first weekend in August, a visitor who was inside a vehicle at the time received minor scratches from a bear who had become habituated to people and vehicles. Park officials then closed the road so that bears could eat and forage undisturbed. In August, berry season is mostly done and fall acorns have not yet ripened, making it difficult for bears to fill up on natural food.
Too often, park visitors and area residents feed bears human or dog food, which causes bears to become conditioned to unnatural food as well as people and vehicles. Over time, food-conditioned bears may become bold and aggressive in their attempts to obtain human food. To prevent food conditioning, always gives bears plenty of physical space, never intentionally feed bears or leave out food and trash they can find, lock car doors, avoid stopping along roadways where bears are present, remain at least 50 yards away from bears and use a telephoto lens for photography.
Report bear incidents or unusual bear activity in the park to 865.436.1230. For more information about coexisting with bears, visit bearwise.org.