Two Smokies campgrounds closed after bear sightings

Two Smokies campgrounds closed after bear sightings

Posted:
Bear activity is up right now in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, prompting park officials to close two back-country campgrounds. Bear activity is up right now in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, prompting park officials to close two back-country campgrounds.
"After lunch we make sure it's in a place like the camper, or if we have a lot of trash, we take it to the special garbage cans that the bears can't get into," said camper Katie Chitkara, explaining how she keeps her campsite bear free. "After lunch we make sure it's in a place like the camper, or if we have a lot of trash, we take it to the special garbage cans that the bears can't get into," said camper Katie Chitkara, explaining how she keeps her campsite bear free.
Willfully approaching a bear within 150 feet or any distance that disturbs the bear is illegal. You could face fines or arrest if you do. Willfully approaching a bear within 150 feet or any distance that disturbs the bear is illegal. You could face fines or arrest if you do.
By LAURA HALM
6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - Bear activity is up right now in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, prompting park officials to close two back-country campgrounds.

However, officials say you could have a run-in with a bear pretty much anywhere in the park, whether you are on a trail or sitting by a campfire.

Historically, June seems to be a very active month for bears in the Smokies because they're in-between their natural food sources. Officials say all campers need to take precautions.

"After lunch we make sure it's in a place like the camper, or if we have a lot of trash, we take it to the special garbage cans that the bears can't get into," said camper Katie Chitkara, explaining how she keeps her campsite bear free.

Two different bears got into Backcountry Campground 13 and Spence Field Shelter.     

"He was kind of circling around the campground. A camper reported on Friday that the bear wasn't being scared off that easily. It was kind of wanting to get in the campground. It did get some of his supplies," said park spokesperson Molly Schroer.

As a precaution, both camps are closed and the bears were tagged.
      
"We do that so we can track him. We know that bear and we can identify him a little bit easier. But it's also a way to give him a negative experience," said Schroer.

Park rangers say to stay safe, hide your food and clean up your garbage. Park officials also have advice if you cross paths with a bear.

"Don't walk up to it, but yell and make noise and try and scare it away. The type of bears we have are black bears so they are more intimidated by us," said Schroer.

Those are rules campers like Diane Gray follow to protect herself and her dogs.

"We do not leave any food out at all, and we usually feed them inside the RV," said Gray.

Park rangers suggest if a bear gets too close for comfort at your campsite, you can call their main dispatch line at (865) 436-1200.

Willfully approaching a bear within 150 feet or any distance that disturbs the bear is illegal. You could face fines or arrest if you do.

The park's website recommends using binoculars, a spotting scope or telephoto lens to view the bears.

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