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  1. #1
    13-45 Section Hiker Trash
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    Default Bear activity in the SE, what’s going on?

    At the risk of overdoing the bear discussions I just had to get this out of my system. With all the talk on the forums recently about bear issues specifically in the SE (i.e. GA, NC, TN & VA), I wonder what’s changed.

    Years ago prior to 2007 I used to hike regularly in places like Shining Rock, other parts of Pisgah NF and Mt. Rogers NRA. I never saw a bear back then in those areas, and rarely even saw any sign (e.g. scat, torn up dead logs, etc.) of bears. Since then I’ve been working on section hiking the AT, and thus it’s been a while since I’ve hiked in most of those areas on a regular basis. Now I’m seeing all kinds of reports of bears around those parts getting food and whatnot, and new (within the last few years) requirements to carry a bear canister if staying overnight in most of these areas.

    So what the heck is going on? Since I haven’t hiked in these areas recently I can’t comment from actual experience, but it appears to be a combination of factors probably related to increase in hikers in the back country leading to more people that are storing food improperly, and perhaps an increase in the bear population. Who knows though, some of this could just be normal and be getting blown out of proportion.

    What are your thoughts? Anybody have more knowledge on what’s going on want to give your opinion?
    AT: 2007-2019 (45 sections)
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  2. #2
    GoldenBear's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Perhaps it's pretty straitforward

    > So what the heck is going on?

    If Pennsylvania is any indication of bear population trends,
    http://www.pgc.pa.gov/Wildlife/Wildl...ionGrowth.aspx
    then it's simply a matter of
    more bears + more people = more encounters between bears and people

    Also, note the thrust of this article:
    http://www.roanoke.com/news/local/be...37303bb7e.html

    Fortunately, more bears means more predation of deer, meaning fewer deer near roadways, meaning fewer cars crashing into deer -- the latter being one of the leading cause of death in human-animal encounters.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deer%E...cle_collisions
    In other words, if we wish to reduce human fatalities in human-animal encounters, we should be encouraging population growth in bears and other deer predators.
    Last edited by GoldenBear; 07-13-2018 at 16:29.

  3. #3

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    More Hikers with less skill in food storage. Obsession with weight leading to more hikers, even experienced ones, trying to burn trash. This leaves more food smells around shelters. The main thing in my opinion... less hunters. Most of the bear hunters I know only want to take a large bear, females with cubs are off limits. So for years you had cubs and younger bears getting chased by a pack of dogs and run up trees, then humans would show up and take the dogs away. They learned from an early age that dogs and people are very bad things and the scent of either should be avoided at all cost. Looking forward to hearing other opinions on this.

  4. #4
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    "Bears actually inhabit all elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Biologists estimate that approximately 1,500 bears live in the park, which equals a population density of roughly two bears per square mile."

    While man has encroached upon their habitat, there is a very healthy bear population throughout the Smoky/Blue Ridge mountains. Bears are smart and they enjoy a delicious free meal. Add to that the fact that more and more clueless people traipsing into the woods, we end up with more "bear encounters". Hiking the AT used to be what true outdoors people did. Today, it is just another cool thing to check off your bucket list which folks prepare for on the internet. How many people have stated on this site that they have never hiked before but plan to start their thru hike on March 1, 20xx. It will only get worse at the expense of bears and other wildlife!!
    Last edited by DownYonder; 07-13-2018 at 13:19.

  5. #5

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    I live relatively close to the GSMNP and go there pretty often. Some years I hear more anecdotes than others but every year they wind up closing about 30-40% of the sites for aggressive bear behavior. Last weekend I happened to camp with a Backcountry Ranger (law enforcement type with sidearm not ATC) and he related the final straw incident at Derrick Knob Shelter a few weeks ago which precipitated the closure: a small black bear ran through a guys tent with the guy in it and got all tangled up.

    I've had a few incidents myself over the last few years: had a pack stolen, a tent shredded, and one time a bear attempted to join my wife and I in camp. He didn't seem to want anything but just sat down about 20 feet from us and stared. We packed up and left.

  6. #6
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PatmanTN View Post
    the final straw incident at Derrick Knob Shelter a few weeks ago which precipitated the closure: a small black bear ran through a guys tent with the guy in it and got all tangled up.
    Probably scared the literal $hit out of the guy!
    While searching for that unknown edge in life, never forget to look home. For the greatest edge you can find in life is to stand in the protective shadow of those who love you.

  7. #7
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    more bears + more people = more encounters between bears and people



    yup............

    along with the the ability to post pictures and video at the drop of a hat.........

  8. #8
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    In other words, if we wish to reduce human fatalities in human-animal encounters, we should be encouraging population growth in bears and other deer predators.


    but..........in the southeast----what are bear and deer predators?


    the only one I can think of off the top of my head, is humans....

    and this would mean hunting bears...


    the bear population in the GSMNP seems like its growing every year (although i have no facts to support this----im just going on my own observations) and the way to cull this population is to hunt them...

    or find some other way to instill fear into bears...

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    but..........in the southeast----what are bear and deer predators?
    Don't ya'll have coyotes by now. They are a major whitetail deer predator, especially fawn and yearling deer.

    I agree with you about needing the human "Apex Predator" to help control the black bear population via hunting in identified areas.

    Is bear hunting popular in the parts of the SE that the OP is referring to? Do most agree that it should be more popular if not?

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    but..........in the southeast----what are bear and deer predators?


    the only one I can think of off the top of my head, is humans....

    and this would mean hunting bears...


    the bear population in the GSMNP seems like its growing every year (although i have no facts to support this----im just going on my own observations) and the way to cull this population is to hunt them...

    or find some other way to instill fear into bears...
    Well, hunting (legal that is) aint honna happen in gsmnp.

    The other option, is just let the chips fall as they may.
    If we lose a few people here and there so what we got too many anyway.

    More seroiusly, when people impact wildlife, ....its time to limit the people.
    And keep doing so until the only people that have access, fully understand consequences. And behave appropriately.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 07-13-2018 at 15:46.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Burrhead View Post
    More Hikers with less skill in food storage. Obsession with weight leading to more hikers, even experienced ones, trying to burn trash. This leaves more food smells around shelters. The main thing in my opinion... less hunters. Most of the bear hunters I know only want to take a large bear, females with cubs are off limits. So for years you had cubs and younger bears getting chased by a pack of dogs and run up trees, then humans would show up and take the dogs away. They learned from an early age that dogs and people are very bad things and the scent of either should be avoided at all cost. Looking forward to hearing other opinions on this.
    I agree. I've seen a lot of awful hangs that are easy pickings for a bear. Once they get a taste of that peanut butter granola bar, there's no going back.

  12. #12
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    Don't ya'll have coyotes by now



    ahhhhh.............wasnt thinking of that one...



    Is bear hunting popular in the parts of the SE that the OP is referring to?


    its a thing down here in TN............especially in the part where Tipi goes hiking...........along the skyway during hunting season, one can see hunters' trucks parked alongside the road and people hanging out while waiting for their dogs to get a hit...

    and one can also come across dogs out in the backcountry...

    to me----and im not a hunter-----the way they do it, is not really hunting at all------they have dogs with GPS collars on them..........release them into the woods...........the dogs will tree a bear and then the hunters come in to that location and shot the bears outta the trees......

  13. #13
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    Well, hunting (legal that is) aint honna happen in gsmnp.

    The other option, is just let the chips fall as they may.
    If we lose a few people here and there so what we got too many anyway.

    More seroiusly, when people impact wildlife, ....its time to limit the people.
    And keep doing so until the only people that have access, fully understand consequences. And behave appropriately.




    yeah...........

    i know hunting will not happen in the Park............although some hunting (like fishing and boar hunting) happens...........the general public can fish, but they can't hunt boar in the Park......the Park has rangers that do it, along with hiring contractors to come in and shot the pigs....



    .its time to limit the people.
    And keep doing so until the only people that have access, fully understand consequences. And behave appropriately.


    yeah...

    that's what it will come down to.............and it will be a ***** storm..........look at how the fight for the new reservation system went down............the Park was trying to improve the backcountry experience but took a beating from the people who were abusing the system..........not that they won though.......

  14. #14

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    Canister requirements are going to be coming, it's just a matter of time. In the long run it'll be good for bears and humans.

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    More seroiusly, when people impact wildlife



    what i hate lately, cause it's been happening a bunch this summer (i know cause my station has been flooded with them) is videos of bears in gatlinburg and other places where humans are at......

    and these humans aren't doing anything to scare off the bear or anything like that.....

    these people are just sitting back and watching whatever the bear is doing and ohhh-ing and ahh-ing, when they should really be trying to scare off the bear.....


    i understand the fascination of wanting to see a bear, cause most people who come to the Park, that's one of their goals.....

    but it's kinda encouraging others to get video of bears and whatever behavior they are doing........


    along with people still leaving food out for bears...............as in, people leaving corn out for deer and then of course bears are going to feed on this corn as well..............along with birdseed........

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    Canister requirements are going to be coming, it's just a matter of time. In the long run it'll be good for bears and humans.



    yup........


    the Park did try a step in the right direction 20 years ago when they installed bear cables...

    but that system has it's flaws....

    one big flaw is the open faced hook to hang bags...

    and now, bears and other critters have learned to tight rope across the cable and/or shake the cables to bring down a food bag.....

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    yup........


    the Park did try a step in the right direction 20 years ago when they installed bear cables...

    but that system has it's flaws....

    one big flaw is the open faced hook to hang bags...

    and now, bears and other critters have learned to tight rope across the cable and/or shake the cables to bring down a food bag.....
    I use a carabiner through the open hook. Saved my bacon one time at #41 when a bear shook the stuffing out of the cable trying to get my food bag down.

  18. #18
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    I use a carabiner through the open hook. Saved my bacon one time at #41 when a bear shook the stuffing out of the cable trying to get my food bag down.


    likewise with the carabiner...

    i found this out on the first backpacking trip i took in the Park to site #3....

    saw the open hook-----shook my head in disbelief.............had a carabiner with me and clip on...

    middle of the night----i heard the cables clanking.............i didnt have a bright enough flashlight to see what it was, but figured if bag was still there in the morning, i was good......and it was.....

  19. #19

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    Could rangers or ridge runners or forest service rangers effectively ticket hikers and campers for not hanging or storing food properly? Maybe this is something that needs to start happening.

  20. #20
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoldenBear View Post
    simply a matter of
    more bears + more people = more encounters between bears and people
    Exactly what I was going to answer.
    While I don't know about the SE in general, I do know that over the years the GSMNP bear population has been on the rise.
    Don't quote me (and please correct me if you have more accurate numbers), but I seem to recall hearing numbers like a bear population of as few as 400 bears in GSMNP about 15-20 years ago, and a modern population of about 1,600.
    While I believe the over-all visitation to GSMNP has always trended upwards, we all know from discussions here in WB that lots more people are attempting AT thru hikes compared to 10-20 years ago (and most of them start in the SE).

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