Monday, October 26, 2009
Bears in the GSMNP, don't be afraid
If you're a hiker, don't fear the bears.
We had 6 bear sightings last week in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park on 2 hikes. Five were from the hike up the Appalachian Trail from Fontana Dam to Shuckstack.
There seemed to be a lot of campsites closed due to 'bear activity'...and a bellicose new sign I hadn't seen before: "Campsite #XX is closed due to aggressive bear activity."
Aggressive? From what we saw, these animals were anything but. They could not wait to get out of view of us. One came down a tree so fast that I thought it would fall.
I sent a photo of the above sign to my father. He sent me a few hysterical texts, hinting that I was putting my life and Iska's in grave danger. Absurd. Bears don't go after hikers. They go after the smell of food, smells usually created from cooking at a campsite.
This bear photo I took at a distance of about 50' with 3X zoom. Isn't he cute? This bear was in our path just off the trail and when I yelled at him, and waved my stick, he promptly left. I followed him a little ways and when I got too close, he let me know by squaring around on all fours, facing me. Like he was saying, 'don't mess with me.' I didn't, I took the photo and left.
The only circumstances that I could see that a bear would be aggressive to a hiker is if a bear were surprised and had no easy way to run away or if you got in between a mother and cub. Otherwise, don't fear the bears. They have an extreme fear of humans and your fear of them is not healthy during an encounter. You should stand your ground and ready your hiking pole or walking stick just in case.