No Lions, No Tigers, but Bears, Oh My!

The world comes alive in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the summer months. Bees buzz, the green foliage deepens, and animals are at their most active. Among the most notable is the population of black bears that make their home in this region surrounding The Divide at Bald Rock. While beautiful to behold, it is important to know the basics of black bear safety to ensure your time spent among the mountaintops is blissful and safe.  

There are roughly 240,000 black bears in the United States, and it’s important to note that our local population doesn’t fully hibernate, and therefore, is active year-round. Foraging for food is always a necessity, so bear sightings are common throughout both the region and calendar year. So, it’s extremely important to always be on the lookout for bears and their cubs.

Because black bears also call the Blue Ridge Mountains home, follow these steps to both respect their space and ensure your own safety:

1.       Be Aware. With such an active population, it’s important to simply always be aware of your surroundings. Avoid hiking at night, be cautious going to and from your car or exiting/entering your home, and never intentionally approach any wild animals, especially a bear.

2.       Respect their space. If you notice a bear nearby or find one to be frequenting certain areas, respect this space by avoiding it or packing up your belongings and making your way to a different area. Move quickly and quietly and try your best to not disturb their habitat.

3.       Back Away Slowly. If you unintentionally find yourself in close proximity with a black bear, back away slowly without making any sudden movements and put as much distance between you and the bear as possible.

4.       Make Noise & Get Big. If you’re confronted with a bear that seems to be either advancing or aggressive and backing away isn’t an option, make your big. Don’t charge the animal or inversely try to run away. Instead, wave your arms, yell, throw rocks, sticks, or any other available objects and stand your ground until the bear turns away.

Other black bear facts to note:

·         Bears are not typically aggressive by nature. Though they can learn from mistreatment, they are generally shy, secretive, and fearful of humans. Compared to grizzly bears who can be inherently more aggressive, black bears tend to mind their own business.

·         The black bear has extremely keen senses of smelling and hearing. This means they can pick up on and track scent trails from far away. Therefore, keep all garbage and scented products safely locked away. Which leads to…

·         Do not intentionally feed bears. As they are wild animals, it’s important that they do not become dependent on human handouts. Should a bear get accustomed to human food, it begins to associate food with humans and therefore become uncharacteristically aggressive.

If we keep these things in mind, we can enjoy sharing our home with the local black bear population; they are truly majestic creatures, breathtaking to see in their natural habitats.

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