Shenandoah National Park closes part of Appalachian Trail to overnight camping

Published: Jun. 13, 2019 at 3:29 PM EDT
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The Shenandoah National Park is temporarily closing part of the Appalachian Trail to overnight camping after recent bear activity.

According to a press release from the park, the trail will be closed to camping from the Riprap Trailhead (mile marker 90 on Skyline Drive) to just south of Wildcat Ridge parking, which is where the Appalachian Trail crosses Skyline Drive at mile marker 92.5.

That section of trail is just above Crimora.

The camping closure for about two and a half miles does not affect any designating campsites or trail shelters. Hiking is also still allowed. Only off-trail camping is affected.

According to the park, there were two recent incidents in which bears gained camper food in that area. Because of the increased risk to the safety of both campers and bears, Superintendent Jennifer Flynn issued the temporary closure until further notice.

There's no timetable on when the trail will reopen to camping.

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.