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Bear canisters mandatory for Panthertown Valley campers

FRANKLIN, N.C. (May 19, 2022) – Overnight visitors to Panthertown Valley on the Nantahala National Forest are now required to use bear-resistant containers for all food, scented items, and trash that gives off an odor that might attract bears.
Visitors who don’t have individual containers can be in compliance with the requirement by using the bear storage lockers installed in Panthertown Valley. There are currently three lockers, and more are planned to be installed. Even something like lip balm can attract a bear’s attention so all scented items such as lotions, soap, deodorant, and sunscreen should be stored.
Requiring bear canisters comes after continued encounters with black bears exhibiting bold behavior over food in the past several years in Panthertown Valley. Most encounters are at places where the public repeatedly camps in the general forest rather than at campgrounds with bear-resistant trash cans. Incidents include bears taking food and backpacks, damaging tents, and staying near inhabited campsites for hours.
“Bears are very reluctant to give up an easy food source and they have not been discouraged by humans yelling, banging pots, or blowing air horns. Using a bear-resistant food container is the surest way to deny bears access to human food,” said Nantahala District Wildlife Biologist Johnny Wills. “Bear sightings are a thrilling part of a forest adventure, but healthy bear-human interactions require that people take care not to teach bears to associate people with food.”
Bears locate food by smell and sight. Do not leave food or coolers unattended. Never store scented items in your tent, including toothpaste, deodorant, beverages, or snacks. Pick up all garbage around your site, including inside fire rings, grills, and tables.
If a bear is observed nearby, pack up food and trash immediately and vacate the area. If necessary, try to scare the bear away with loud noises. If a bear approaches, do not run, but move away slowly and get into a vehicle or building. In the event of a bear attack, do not play dead. Try to fight back and act aggressively. EPA registered bear spray is another way to combat bear attacks.
More bear tips for forest visitors and how to live with bears in your own neighborhood is at www.bearwise.org. The forest order detailing the requirements for use of bear-resistant containers is posted at https://go.usa.gov/xuSxT.

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