KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Spring has begun and the Forset Service is encouraging people to be “bear aware.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service encourages people to remember simple bear safety when they visit Cherokee National Forest. Visitors are required to store unattended food in bear-resistant containers, in a vehicle in solid non-pliable material, or suspend food at least 12 feet off the ground.
Bears are opportunists by nature and they will eat whatever is readily available in the wild, from berries to insects. This also means that garbage and food odors attract bears to residential areas, dumpsites, campsites, and picnic areas.
This can then lead a bear to develop a pattern of relying on human food. This will eventually cause a bear to lose its fear of people, and grow more aggressive creating safety concerns for humans and can be fatal for the bear.
The Forest Service suggests the following steps if you encounter a black bear:
- If you see a bear in the distance, make a wide detour or slowly leave the area.
- Always properly possess and store food and other attractants.
- Never feed or toss food to a bear.
- Store food or other attractants, such as toothpaste, in a closed hardtop vehicle, a bear-proof storage container or suspend at least 12 feet off the ground and six feet from limbs.
- Never approach bears – they are wild animals. If a bear changes its natural behavior because of your presence, you are too close.
- Give the bear plenty of room to pass, and it usually will
If a bear approaches you:
- Don’t run or turn away.
- Back away slowly.
- Face the bear, but don’t look directly into its eyes.
- Keep it in sight.
- Make yourself look bigger by waving your arms and yelling.
- Make lots of noise and stomp your feet.
If you are on a picnic or camping trip:
- Never leave food or trash unattended.
- Never cook or store food in or near your tent.
- Keep a clean site by properly disposing of garbage including fruit rinds and cores, empty cans or jars and aluminum foil used for grilling or cooking.
- Pick up all food scraps around your site.
- Wipe down tabletops after each use and before vacating your site.
- If a bear approaches your site, pack up your food and trash. If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, or by banging pans together. If the bear is persistent, move away slowly to your vehicle or another secure area.
- Keep children close at hand.
- Keep pets properly confined to a leash or in a vehicle or camper.