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Blue Ridge Parkway trail closed due to aggressive bear encounters – Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE – Wildlife biologists and law enforcement rangers have closed all use of a half-mile section on Bull Mountain Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville due to an increase in dangerous bear encounters, according to a news statement from the National Park Service.
Over a two-to-three-week period from mid-May through early June, hikers reported “aggressive” bear activity on the trail, said Leesa Sutton Brandon, parkway spokesperson.
In one instance, an unleashed dog provoked a bear to attack a leashed dog, and the resulting injuries from the encounter led to the dog being euthanized by a vet. Another encounter involved a large bear charging a lone male hiker, who successfully scared off the bear. In another instance, a bear bluff charged a hiker and her leashed dog, Brandon told the Citizen Times June 21.
“May and June are typically busy months in the park and for bears,” Brandon said. “Bears are actively roaming looking for food. However, natural food sources are still pretty limited. As a result, we do tend to see a peak in bear-human incidents during this time.”
More:‘Aggressive’ bears force Appalachian Trail camping ban near Hot Springs
In response, wildlife biologists and law enforcement rangers have enacted a closure on a half-mile section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in the Bull Mountain area, from Milepost 381.3 to 381.8, which is near the Folk Art Center. Bull Mountain Trail is located about 5 miles east of downtown Asheville along the parkway near the Riceville Meadows neighborhood.
The closure is expected to be in place through June 30, and the road will remain open for use.
So far this year, NPS staff have received approximately 25 reports of bear-human interactions on the parkway, which is about average for this time of year, according to Brandon. Typically, the park responds to about 60 to 70 bear incidents a year.  
“Visitors are encouraged to be BearWise when visiting bear country,” Tom Davis, the parkway’s wildlife biologist, said in a news release June 20. “These early season encounters are not out of the ordinary, however we want to use them as an opportunity to remind visitors that their actions in the park can help keep themselves, other park visitors, and wildlife safe.”  
More:Cyclist dies on Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville; medical emergency suspected
The parkway curves along some of the highest peaks in the Eastern United States, stretching 469 miles from its start at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, passing through Asheville and ending at the entrance to the Great Smokies in Cherokee.
It is is the most visited unit of the National Park Service, with some 15.7 million visitors in 2022.
Park visitors should always keep pets on a leash no longer than 6 feet while in the park, keep food out of sight and maintain situational awareness, Davis said. If a visitor encounters a bear, they should back away slowly in the opposite direction and wait for the bear to leave or make loud noises to scare the bear away.
Visitors can find bear safety tips on the parkway’s Bear Safety web page and at BearWise.org. If you encounter a bear while on the parkway, call 828-298-2491 or stop at the nearest Visitor Center to report the encounter.   
Ryley Ober is the Public Safety Reporter for Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Please support local, daily journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.


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