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ScottC
04-11-2010, 20:09
Just booked shelter reservations for the week of 5/10 and the ranger mentioned a "bear warning" at Tricorner Shelter. Has this been a bigger deal since they took down the fences at the shelters?? I've been around bears before (including out West) and never had any trouble...

Thanks

1azarus
04-11-2010, 20:13
pretty much standing standard warning these days.

Ox97GaMe
04-11-2010, 21:28
Bear warnings in the park just mean that there is a bear in the general area and can usually be seen on a regular basis. If there is a problem bear in the area, the shelter would be closed.

The issue about bears has not increased because of the removal of the fences in the park. In fact, there have been fewer actual bear incidents at the renovated shelters. The issue before was that some hikers use the fence as a 'security blanket' would cook and store food in the shelter area. In some cases, hikers would even stand behind the fence and throw food out to the bears so they could get a better picture of it. Since the fences have been taken down, we are seeing fewer hikers practicing these types of behaviors.

For clarification; when I say hikers Im not just refering to thru hikers. I am referring to any of the 13.5 million visitors into the park annually. Not all of them have the best backcountry smarts or etiquette.

Also, the bear population in the park has been on the rise the past few years. More bears means more sightings. As long as the park can control it to a minimal level of human stupidity in the backcountry, bears and hikers should be able to share the wilderness without major incidents occurring.

ScottC
04-11-2010, 21:48
Yeah - I was thinking along the same lines. I've never had a problem when I've hung what should be hung. My animal encounters have all come when I get lazy - cooking near the tent, etc.

Kinda follows the adage, "You gotta to be tough if you're gonna be stupid".

bflorac
04-12-2010, 05:08
Tri-Corner is deep in the park. The recomendation last June (where there was a big bear) was to put your entire pack up on the bear line at night. I also had a personal encounter with an agressive bear at Mt Collins :)
http://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/showimage.php?i=34684&catid=565

Don't feed the bears!

Plodderman
04-12-2010, 10:38
Bear warnings are a normal part of that area. I hang my whole pack when hiking in that area but not everyone does.

A couple of years ago we came and they had bear warning signs posted but we had no problems at all.

John B
04-12-2010, 11:25
Tri-Corner is deep in the park. The recomendation last June (where there was a big bear) was to put your entire pack up on the bear line at night. I also had a personal encounter with an agressive bear at Mt Collins :)
http://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/showimage.php?i=34684&catid=565

Don't feed the bears!

That's a helluva picture. What's the story behind the encounter? What did the bear do, what did you do, were you hiking alone, did the bear come back, etc? I'd like to read more about it.

Graywolf
04-12-2010, 13:50
OK, OK, Dont worry about it..The bears are not a problem..According to members of White Blaze, there never have been and never will be any bear incindents on the trail..You are completely safe..eat in your tent, cook in your tent, and give hand outs to the bears..They will love you for it and leave the next hiker alone..

Just a comment on several other threads...

Graywolf

SGT Rock
04-12-2010, 13:55
Something to think about. I camped up at Icewater once, and got the active bear warning with sitings last night. I got up there and there wasn't any bear sign, but lots of evidence of VERY recent hog activity. Sometimes I think the bears that get reported are actually hogs. Unless they close a campsite I never take bear warnings as anything to modify my plans.

FWIW, here is a good place to check while making plans: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm

Currently no campsites are closed and it doesn't look like they have posted any bear warnings.

sidebackside
04-12-2010, 14:48
Something to think about. I camped up at Icewater once, and got the active bear warning with sitings last night. I got up there and there wasn't any bear sign, but lots of evidence of VERY recent hog activity. Sometimes I think the bears that get reported are actually hogs.



Not to drift but...I definitely agree SGT. Several times I've encountered some hog activity at Icewater.

SGT Rock
04-12-2010, 15:47
Not to drift but...I definitely agree SGT. Several times I've encountered some hog activity at Icewater.

Yep, and some black shapes moving around in the dark woods could easily be mistaken for bears - especially when you expect to see bears.

Disney
04-12-2010, 17:27
Yep, and some black shapes moving around in the dark woods could easily be mistaken for bears - especially when you expect to see bears.

One or two of those things can make a HUGE noise. If they start grunting and tearing up the vegetation, it would be extremely easy to mistake the sounds for bear activity. Not just for the weekenders. You would really have to know your stuff to be sure. I know I could easily be fooled.

Ox97GaMe
04-12-2010, 20:23
Im in the park a LOT, seen my fair share of bears, and camped at locations where bear warnings were posted. Never have had a bear incident, other than a bear walking within sight of where I was standing/walking/sitting/camping.

I did have a bear once that came to where we were working for 5 consecutive days. Each morning, the bear would stroll up to within about 50 yards of the work site, sit down beside a tree, and just watch us. When we got done in the afternoon and started to pack up the tools, he would get up and stroll back down the hill. Im not sure who was amused more, us or the bear. He definitely was taking an interest in what we were doing, as if to be supervising our work. :)

sheepdog
04-12-2010, 20:28
GSMNP bears are always spooky. They are too used to people and don't act like real bears.

just dad
04-12-2010, 20:55
That's a helluva picture. What's the story behind the encounter? What did the bear do, what did you do, were you hiking alone, did the bear come back, etc? I'd like to read more about it.

Here is the story, as written by my 11 year old daughter.


I was 9 years old as I touched the plaque and started down off Springer Mountain. Of course, I still had no idea what I was getting into, and the way it started was not how you would expect. The beginning of a great adventure never seems to have a logical beginning. My journey began while I was sitting down eating breakfast and absentmindedly twiddling my fingers over the last few bites of toast, when a few sentences from the conversation my brother, Matthew, and dad were engrossed in. "Itís a trail that stretches 2,175 miles from Georgia to Maine." "I think hiking it would be really cool" the words that changed every summer vacation however came a few seconds later. "Matthew, would you hike the AT with me?" Daddy asked. "Sure!" Matthew then replied. I didnít want to get left out. Hey, I loved nature too. I was just more interested in the symmetry of a flower petal, or the straightness of a tree so high it was hard to see the top than bugs and other disgusting creatures like them. "May I come too?" I then asked, and that was the true beginning of everything that happened on our quest to walk from Georgia to Maine.

We were in our third year of hiking when we reached the Smoky Mountains. June 12, 2009, started like many other days on the Trail. I had, as usual slowly woken up, grumbled about getting up, eaten a power bar, and started out. Actually it usually was a much more complicated process than that, but I did get a move on. That day I had been looking forward to Clingmanís Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. I was hoping for some really good views, so I could take plenty of pictures. That day I did take many good pictures, but they were not of what I desired, or in any way of what I was expecting. I knew we had to go 14 miles to get to Mt. Collins Shelter, and I was definitely not reveling in that fact. The first part of the day was rather gradual, meaning not a lot of ups and downs. I was still happy when we reached the sign saying, "Clingmanís Dome 7.4 miles." Soon the path went on a gradual up. It started to get very mucky. The rocks started getting bigger. There were also two other changes: the trees were turning to pines and there were more dead tones. The hike to Clingmanís Dome consisted of lots of ups and one down. I kept thinking that I was going to get to the top, but it was just always another ridge. The view was good, but a bit misty. The rest of the walking was pretty hard. We finally reached Clingmanís Dome and took a nice break at the top of the observation tower. We could not rest yet. We still had 3.8 miles, plus another Ĺ mile side trail to Mt. Collins shelter, where we would spend the night.

It had been a very long day of hiking. Finally I spotted an old sign that said, "Mt. Collins Shelter .5 Miles". The last .5 miles seemed too go by very quickly. Then I heard daddy, rather far behind me call, "Careful Lizzie!" I really wasnít paying much attention though. The next yell came from the campsite however, and that one stopped me dead in my tracks. "Careful Lizzie bear!" Daddy carefully walked with me into the clearing.

In the clearing I saw a now familiar group of hikers. We had shared camps with Bill, Al, and Greg "Running Bear" since entering the Great Smoky Mountain National Park three days earlier, and they were there to welcome us in the clearing by the shelter. Also in the group was a college kid I didnít know. Eventually I learned the entire story. They explained that the bear had come and tried to get the college kidís pack. The other hikers had promptly tried to get their gear into the shelter so it was safely away from the bear. When Bill took his pack in to the shelter, the bear then came and took Billís sock. The bear then returned and took one of Billís boots. Bill explained that about 20 minutes later he tried to recover his boot which was about 30 feet beyond the trees. The bear was waiting when Bill appro9ached his boot, and it crouched down as if it was going to spring.

After hearing Billís story I got my first gook look at Mt. Collins shelter. In the 1930s the Civilian conservation Crops built the Smoky Mountain shelters. They were three sided structures build of stone. Each shelter had a fireplace at one end. The park service later added chain link fences across the open front of the shelters to keep bears out. Protected by the fence, hikers would cook inside the shelters and hang their food inside the shelters. All but two of the shelters on the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountain Park have been renovated. The renovated shelters no longer have the fencing across the front. They have a clerestory to bring in light and new wooden platforms for bunks. Mt. Collins shelter was the first Smoky Mountain Shelter that we were staying at that had not been renovated. The inside of this shelter was dark. The shelter had a dank, musty smell. The chain link fence across the shelter appeared to be 50 years old. The fence was held up on one side with a thin wire attached to the shelterís stone wall. The other side of the fence was bowed in. It looked as if a bear had tried to force his way in and had almost been successful. I closed by eyes and imagined the screaming and desperate hikers who must have been in the shelter when the bear tried to break through the fence. I stared again at the fence and it gave the impression that any breeze would simply blow it over. I was not looking forward to sleeping in this shelter, but I would rather sleep in this shelter than sleep completely exposed to the bear.

When we arrived some time had passed since Billís first attempt to recover his boot. Bill wanted to try again and daddy agreed to go with Bill. At that point in time I was very glad that daddy had his pepper spray. I wanted to have the camera so I could take pictures, however daddy seemed to object to the thought of having pictures of him being mauled by a bear. The bear was not guarding the boot so Bill and daddy came back successful. Thank goodness he did too, since Bill could not have hiked with just one boot.

After that we were pretty hungry so daddy was about to make dinner. It occurred to me that the bear might like noodles, but I wasnít going to say anything. Not at all surprisingly, I was right. As soon as the smell of food was in the air we had our first view of a bear. If I could use one sentence to sum him up it would probably go on the lines of, "He looked absolutely nothing like a teddy bear." I know itís sad, but Iíd rather not go into the details of razor sharp claws and giant teeth. Later the college kid offered me some rice. I gave it to Matthew. I donít like rice, although I did appreciate his offer. The bear stayed with us after that. The bear kept wandering around the shelter. The bear did not leave its post once until we herd the Texans (I am calling the two people who arrived next purely because of their cowboy hats).

When the Texans arrived the bear (which we were all calling Cujo after a movie of a man eating St. Bernard) slipped off into the shadows. We tried to tell the Texans that there was a bear, but they wouldnít listen. "We aint scared of no dang bear" they said. Then they took out a bag that appeared to be like a make your own cigarettes kit. They went outside the shelter with the cigarettes kit. I suspected that they were smoking pot. After a while they went off to the privy. We told them it wasnít a good idea, and they repeated, "We aint scared of no dang bear."

Soon the Texans came back running and looking quite scared. "Thereís a bear out there!" they exclaimed. We all rolled our eyes and let it sink in. Then Cujo came around the corner and sat down in front of us. Thatís when I started taking pictures. While I snapped pictures of the Bear, daddy and everyone else (except the Texans) stuck their hands through the fence to try to find a signal on their phones. Unfortunately there wasnít any signal, although fortunately everyoneís arms came back through the fence without any bite marks.

If anyone wanted to go out and relieve themselves 2 or 3 others would come along to make a show of force. Later the Texans told us all that they had 80 Benedryl tablets, and we could try to feed those to the bear. We spent a few minutes discussing the pros and cons of drugging the bear, but there was one problem. Benedryl either makes someone go to sleep or bounce off the walls. After that the Texans tried their luck with their cell phones. Unfortunately they didnít have any coverage either. They werenít trying to call for help though, they wanted to Google bears and Benedryl.

It was getting dark and the bear was still in our camp. Realizing he would probably be in our camp the entire night we tried to see if we could use hiking poles as spears to push the bear away in the event he attacked. Unfortunately we couldnít figure how to get the baskets off the end of the poles so we could stick them through the shelterís fence. I was actually quite glad that I didnít work. I thought that poking the bear with a sharp stick was not the best way to win favor with the bear.

At one point we were throwing rocks at the bear. Most missed, but a really big one from Bill hit it right in the chest. What happened next really surprised me--the bear turned and sniffed the rock! He then looked at us accusingly, and it was almost as if he said, "Hey, why arenít you giving me food?" Then we started shaking the fence and yelling at the bear (while throwing more stones). The bear didnít flinch. When we were shaking the fence particularly hard to make a lot of noise, Greg reminded us, "We might need that fence later." And you know what he was absolutely right. We needed the ancient 60-year-old fence to keep us safe through the night.

In the morning my brother, dad and I left the shelter in a group with Bill (his new trail name was "One Boot") and Al. Although we never saw Cujo again, he will always be my most memorable experience on the Appalachian Trail. Well Cujo, the lightning and rattlesnakes are also memorable, but those are all different stories.

SGT Rock
04-12-2010, 20:57
Im in the park a LOT, seen my fair share of bears, and camped at locations where bear warnings were posted. Never have had a bear incident, other than a bear walking within sight of where I was standing/walking/sitting/camping.

I did have a bear once that came to where we were working for 5 consecutive days. Each morning, the bear would stroll up to within about 50 yards of the work site, sit down beside a tree, and just watch us. When we got done in the afternoon and started to pack up the tools, he would get up and stroll back down the hill. Im not sure who was amused more, us or the bear. He definitely was taking an interest in what we were doing, as if to be supervising our work. :)

I've had bears around and in camp. They have never been a problem for me either. They usually don't like cameras in my experience because I can never get one to cooperate as I try to take its picture.

Ox97GaMe
04-12-2010, 22:51
Yep. That is the way it usually goes. If you do the things you are instructed to do and not be an idiot out there, you usually dont have bear problems. Almost all of the stories I have heard about bear issues in the park tend to involve problem hikers before it turns into a problem bear issue. But, the bear ends up paying the price. I once told the rangers that I wanted a gun permit so I could shoot all the problem hikers I saw. They laughed and told me that could easily be 1 n 5 people. A new law was passed this year where a person with a proper permit is allowed to carry a hand gun in the park. Look out, I may be locked and loaded. Im on a mission to save the bears. :)

I do remember thinking that I wouldnt have been a bit suprised if that bear had pulled out a sandwich and a coke while he was watching us work. There was something about us working there that had him absolutely intriqued. Maybe he was waiting for us to give him a handout.

SGT Rock
04-12-2010, 23:01
Last bear encounter I had was down near Hazel Creek at Opossum Hollow Campsite. I was frying chicken when the bear started stiffing his way into camp. I pulled out my camera as he started moving in. He got about 10' from me and I said "Hey bear, I'm trying to take a picture here" - at that point he took off running. I think cameras for bears must be like crosses to vampires.

SawnieRobertson
04-13-2010, 20:36
That's a helluva picture. What's the story behind the encounter? What did the bear do, what did you do, were you hiking alone, did the bear come back, etc? I'd like to read more about it.

The photo is superb, the best I've ever seen.--Kinnickinic

Wise Old Owl
04-13-2010, 21:09
just a few words pick up rocks.....take a slingshot.

brian039
04-17-2010, 13:13
Talked to the Ridge Runner 3 days ago and he told us that they are having problems with bears at Tri-Corner and Mollies Ridge. He said all the other shelters are fine.

Ox97GaMe
04-17-2010, 14:16
just some clarification on the last post. The park is NOT encountering bear problems at these shelters. They have posted bear warnings at these two shelters because there are bears regularly in that area. Hikers can likely see a bear just about any day when in these two areas of the park. If it were a problem bear, the shelters would be CLOSED until the bear issue was resolved. There are no shelters currently closed in the park.

Bear warnings do not mean problem bears. They mean that it is likely you will see a bear and need to be aware and alert. They dont want a bear sighting to turn into a bear issue.

Also remember... it is springtime. The bears are coming out of hybernation and are hungry. This is also the cub season, so many of the female bears will be protective of their cubs and perhaps a little less tolerant of hikers. Hikers should use extra caution during this spring season when in bear habitat. NOTE: GSMP IS black bear habitat.

TIDE-HSV
04-18-2010, 19:49
I've told the tale here before, but we lost my wife's pack at Sheep Pen Gap (#13) about 15 years ago. We had been with a large group over the weekend and stayed over for Sunday night. He wandered into camp late in the afternoon and I ran him off several times with rocks. We hung our food, but not our packs. In the night, he knocked mine over, and I charged out and ran him off. In the morning, I awoke to a "bong - bong" sound. I looked out and he was jumping for our food bag. He was the biggest black bear I've ever seen, but they thankfully can't jump. He was knocking together two aluminum French canteens hanging on the bottom. We decided to clear out and had everything ready to load, when we saw that her pack was gone. I went down in the direction he'd fled and, about 200 yds or so down the slope, he raised up from behind a rock, saw me and took off again. Never found the pack.

I got special permission to go back the next weekend (NPS had closed the site) to try and recover the pack. I kept asking the rangers if anyone had reported him chewing through ropes. The answer kept coming back negative. I decided to go in from the Twentymile side and two guys and a kid came walking up to their truck, next to mine. We started chatting and I asked them where they'd been. They'd spent the last night at #13 (knew they were illegal then). When I asked about the rope-chewing, they said that he'd chewed through three different arrangements and they'd finally had to stay up all night, swapping watches. I didn't even bother to hike up. I've been hiking the park regularly now for 40 years. You tend to accumulate bear stories over that period of time. I'm surprised nothing is closed at this time. As it warms up and more people are hiking in, that'll change...