Bear wants in on the backpack craze
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.