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Rangers warn forest visitors to look out for bears

The Pisgah National Forest warns visitors to North Mills River, Bent Creek Experimental Forest and Black Balsam and surrounding areas on the Pisgah Ranger District to be on the look out for black bears.

On the Grandfather Ranger District, bears have also been active at Table Rock and the Old Fort Picnic Area.

Black bears look for food that campers and trail users bring on their trips. While black bear attacks on people are rare, such attacks have resulted in human fatalities.

To avoid bear attacks, experts recommend the following:
-- Keep your dog on a leash in areas where bears are reported.
-- If you notice a bear nearby, pack up your food and trash immediately and vacate the area as soon as possible.
-- If a bear approaches, move away slowly; do not run. Get into a vehicle or a secure building.
-- If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, by banging pans together, or throwing rocks and sticks at it.
-- If you are attacked by a black bear, try to fight back using any object available. Act aggressively and intimidate the bear by yelling and waving your arms. Playing dead is not appropriate.

Visitors are encouraged to prevent bear interactions by practicing these additional safety tips:
-- Do not store food in tents.
-- Properly store food and scented items, like toothpaste, by using a bear-proof container, or leaving them in your vehicle. (Many toiletries that seem to have little to no odor can still attract bears.)
--  Clean up food or garbage around fire rings, grills, or other areas of your campsite.
--  Do not leave food unattended.
--  Never run away from a bear. Back away slowly and make lots of noise.

The large number of bear sightings and encounters in the past few years has led to required use of bear-proof canisters in the Shining Rock and Black Balsam areas. Backcountry users must use commercially-made canisters constructed of solid, non-pliable material manufactured for the specific purpose of resisting entry by bears.