(Second in a three part series on bears in the mountains) 
If you spend much time outdoors in Western North Carolina either hiking, visiting waterfalls, fishing or nature walking the chances of encountering a black bear are very good.  Watching bears in their natural environment from a safe, respectable distance is very exhilarating.  Positive experiences by visitors and residents of The Highlands Plateau are far more common than negative.  Although extremely rare, meeting an aggressive bear sometimes occurs.  The following are some tips to avoid them.
  • Hiking in a group and during daylight hours.
  • Be aware. Learn about and watch for bear signs.
  • Overturned rocks or broken up rotten logs (bears foraging for grubs or insects)…..Claw marks on trees…..tracks in the dirt or snow……..Berries on the ground, plant root diggings, fur on the bark of trees
  • Stay away from food sources (wild berry patches, or fruit trees with fruit on the ground)and dead animals – bears may be foraging in the area or protecting a carcass.

If you see a bear, remain watchful.  DO NOT approach it.  If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, looks at you, changes its travel direction)   YOU ARE TOO CLOSE!!  Don’t run away, just back away slowly, watching the bear.   

If the bear starts running toward you, making loud noises or swatting the ground, he is signaling that he needs more space.  Try to increase the distance between you and the bear.  The bear will probably do the same.   If it comes toward you without the paw swatting and loud noises and continues to follow you – Make yourself look as large as possible. Throw NON-Food objects such as rocks at the bear.  Use a deterrent such as a stout stick.  Do not run and don’t turn away from the bear.  Don’t leave food for the bear; this encourages further problems.

Most injuries from a Black Bear attack are minor as a rule from a bear attempting to get at food.  If the bear’s behavior indicated that it is after your food, and you are physically attacked, separate yourself from the food and slowly back away.   If the bear shows not show interest in your food, fight back aggressively with any available object – the bear may consider you prey!

Seeing a bear can be an exciting experience, but watch from a distance or from the safety of your home.

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