The National Park Service extended warnings of increased bear activity on Blue Ridge Parkway and campgrounds through the remainder of the fall season. Visitors are asked to keep an eye out for bears on the Parkway in addition to the fall foliage, reports the Greenville Journal.
Caitlin Worth, a public affairs officer for the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, said an alert will remain in effect for the 469-mile scenic highway and its campgrounds through the remainder of the fall season due to increased black bear activity. The alert was issued in June by the National Park Service.
“Bears are very active along the parkway at this time,” the alert says. “Bears are wild animals that are dangerous and unpredictable. Do not approach bears or allow them to approach you!”
Worth said bear sightings are common during the fall foliage season, when an estimated 2 million tourists visit the Blue Ridge Parkway to watch the leaves transform from shades of green to autumn hues.
Bears in North Carolina also tend to become more active in the fall as they prepare for colder weather and search for food. While bears don’t truly hibernate during the winter months, they usually put on weight before locating a den and entering a long period of sleep.
Worth said feeding bears or allowing them access to human food and garbage can cause them to lose their instinctive fear of people. These bears may begin approaching people in search of food and become more unpredictable and dangerous, damaging property and injuring campers and hikers.
If a bear enters a campsite or picnic area, visitors should give the animal space and not feed it, according to Worth. Federal regulations state that willfully approaching a bear within 50 yards or any distance that disturbs or displaces a bear is illegal along the Parkway.
Worth said Parkway visitors should stay calm and stand their ground if approached by a black bear instead of screaming or running away, which may cause the bear to attack. If an attack does occur, however, visitors should try to escape to a secure place, act aggressively, or fight back.