Bear wants in on the back­pack craze

Rappahannock News - - Schools - By John McCaslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

Shenan­doah Na­tional Park has tem­po­rar­ily closed eight des­ig­nated camp­sites af­ter a bear tried to steal a back­pack from in­side a tent. Park of­fi­cials did not im­me­di­ately say if the back­pack con­tained food.

The re­cent in­ci­dent took place at a camp­ing site be­tween mile­posts 84 and 87 on Sky­line Drive. Specif­i­cally, the tent was pitched at the Black­rock Hut/Shel­ter — off the Ap­palachian Trail (AT) be­tween Black­rock Sum­mit Park­ing Area and Black­rock Gap.

Be­cause of the in­creased risk to both cam­per — and bear — safety, Su­per­in­ten­dent Jen­nifer Flynn is­sued the tem­po­rary clo­sure to overnight camp­ing at the eight sites un­til July 11.

Af­ter learn­ing of the bear en­counter, one per­son wrote on the park’s web­site that vis­i­tors need to use “com­mon sense” when camp­ing in the back­coun­try: “Bears live in the woods! Yes it’s their home. Don’t make them pay with their lives be­cause of stu­pid­ity.”

“Usu­ally these in­ci­dents are not the bear’s fault,” wrote an­other per­son.

That said, Out­side mag­a­zine wrote this year that so­called “bear bags are in­ef­fec­tive. You’re prob­a­bly do­ing it wrong. And even if you aren’t, it won’t work any­way.”

The mag­a­zine re­ports that “bear hangs” in nearby trees while camp­ing, even while rec­om­mended, taught and prac­ticed by in­flu­en­tial peo­ple and or­ga­ni­za­tions, “is less ef­fec­tive, less fool­proof, less re­li­able, less ef­fi­cient, and less safe than other food-pro­tec­tion tech­niques, notably hard-sided can­is­ters and (to a lesser de­gree) soft-sided bear-re­sis­tant food sacks.”

For that mat­ter, Out­side points out, black bears are ex­tra­or­di­nary tree climbers.

In ad­di­tion, they chew through cords, break tree limbs, and have even been known to “send their cubs out on the limb to do the dirty work for them.”

Shenan­doah Park says it tem­po­rar­ily closed the eight camp­sites “to min­i­mize the po­ten­tial for fur­ther hu­man-bear con­flicts.” Dur­ing the clo­sure, A.T. long dis­tance hik­ers are able to camp at Dundo Camp­ground, just south of the group camp­ing sites (mile 83.4 Sky­line Drive).

If any­body be­comes aware of a sit­u­a­tion where a bear is "hang­ing out" in a camp­ground or pic­nic area, or where peo­ple are de­lib­er­ately feed­ing a bear, or if some­body is in­volved in a bluff charge sit­u­a­tion or an ac­tual con­tact in­ci­dent, please re­port it to park staff im­me­di­ately via Shenan­doah’s emer­gency line: 800-732-0911.

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