Aggressive bears pose dangers along parts of Tennessee’s Appalachian Trail, resulting in camping bans and solo traveler warnings.
Two sections of the trail near Cleveland, Tennessee, have been classified as unsafe for the past two weeks, according to the US Forest Service.
The latest closure, announced in late October, affects emergency shelter No Business Knob “from Chestoa to Spivey Gap at 19W until further notice,” officials said.
On October 28, the Forest Service announced a similar warning for the Abingdon Gap Shelter from the Tennessee-Virginia border to the Low Gap area near Highway421.
In each case, hikers reported one bear was aggressive, officials said. Details of these encounters have not been released. Black bears weigh up to 600 pounds in Tennessee, the state says.
“US Forest Service officials are urging visitors to exercise caution with the replica in the area and to keep an eye out for black bears,” officials said.
The Appalachian Trail remains open across the state, but hikers are warned to carry bear spray, keep dogs on leashes, and “walk, hike, jog, or bike alone.”
“If you meet a bear, don’t run away. Slowly back away while making noise and don’t turn your back on the bear,” officials say.
“In the unlikely event that you are attacked or come into contact with a black bear, fight back.”
The warnings were issued just days after Great Smoky Mountains National Park closed two popular hiking trails “due to large concentrations of acorn-feeding black bears.”
“Bears depend on fall foods, such as acorns and grapes, to store fat reserves that allow them to survive the winter,” the park reported.
“In general, bears are solitary. However, in the fall, several bears can be seen feeding in close proximity,” park officials said. “They often feed for more than 12 hours a day and can concentrate in areas where food sources are plentiful. During this time, normally wary bears can act aggressively to defend these areas.”
Trails that are closed in the national park include the Gatlinburg Trail between Gatlinburg and the Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Twin Creeks Trail between Gatlinburg and the Twin Creeks Science and Education Center.