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To Avoid Bear Encounters, Two Campsites in the Smokies Become Reservation Only

by Liz Childers

Starting August 1, two campsites in the Great Smoky Mountains will become reservation only. Both sites are located on the Hazel Creek Trail in North Carolina, near the Tennessee border. Park officials hope the move will help deter a growing bear problem.

When it comes to bears and camping, it’s important to remember that bears will come where they smell food. The safest way to store food while camping is to wrap it in a tarp and tie it to a tree far away from the camping area and high out of a bear’s reach. Also, always throw away scraps of food.

Safely storing food is difficult when campgrounds are overcrowded, and this has become problematic for the Hazel Creek Trail. The popular campsites tended to fill up quickly, but have never required reservations until now. With so many people on site, bears have become attracted to the area. Bears have a good memory and can develop an appetite for human food; both attributes keep them returning to the same spots to feed.

Park officials anticipate that the reservation requirement will reverse this negative trend by preventing overcrowding at the sites.

Before you go into the woods, make sure you know how to prevent a bear encounter and what to do if you see one.