Shenandoah National Park closes group of campsites due to bear activity

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SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK (WHSV) — The Shenandoah National Park is temporarily closing a group of campsites just off the Appalachian Trail after recent bear activity.

According to a press release from the park, all eight designated campsites surrounding the Blackrock Hut/Shelter will be closed to overnight camping until July 11.

Park officials say a bear recently tried to get a camper's backpack from inside a tent in a campsite in the area, which is off the trail between the Blackrock Summit Parking Area and Blackrock Gap (mile 84.8 and 87.0 on Skyline Drive).

Overnight use of the shelter itself will not be affected by the closure.

During the time of the closure, those hiking long portions of the Appalachian Trail will be given the chance to camp at Dundo near the group camping sites (mile marker 83.4 of Skyline Drive) instead.

Hiking is still allowed in the area and only camping at the sites is affected.

Black bears are naturally wary of people, but there are tips you can follow to ensure your safety. One is carrying bear spray, but that should only be used as a last resort. If in that situation, spray it at the bear's sensitive nasal and eye areas.

· Never feed or approach a bear. Park regulations require at least 50 yards to safely view a bear.
· Never store food or scented items (such as tooth paste) in your tent.
· Remain calm if you encounter a bear.
· Make the bear aware of your presence by speaking in an assertive voice, singing, clapping your hands, or making other noises.
· Make sure the bear has an escape route.
· Avoid direct eye contact and never run from a bear. Instead, slowly back away.
· To scare the bear away, make loud noises by yelling, banging pots and pans or using an air horn. Make yourself look as big as possible by waving your arms. If you are with someone else, stand close together with your arms raised above your head.
· The bear may utter a series of huffs, make popping jaw sounds by snapping its jaws and swat the ground. These are warning signs that you are too close. Slowly back away, avoid direct eye contact and do not run.
· If a black bear stands on its hind legs or moves closer, it may be curious and trying to get a better view or detect scents in the air. It is usually not a threatening behavior.
· Black bears will sometimes "bluff charge" when cornered, threatened or attempting to defend a food source. Stand your ground, avoid direct eye contact, then slowly back away and do not run.
· If the bear does not leave, move to a secure area or at least 200 yards away.

Attacks from black bears are extremely rare, but if one happens to you, do NOT play dead or run away. Fighting back is your only option, and you should aim for the eyes or nose.

If you're in the Shenandoah National Park and see a bear "hanging out" in a campground or picnic area, see people feeding bears, or if you're involved in a bluff charge situation with a bear, you should report the incident to park staff immediately at 800-732-0911.