Thursday, April 23, 2009

While bear become bolder in the GSMNP questions still remain unanswered about bear spray.

It's getting warmer in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and more black bear are being spotted each day by hikers, campers and motorists in various sections of America's favorite national park.

The information given by a park employee to Your Smokies about the legality of bear spray in the Great Smoky Mountains last week continues to be called into question by a small number of outspoken people because of conflicting information allegedly being given out by a national park representative in the backcountry office.

Repeated requests have been made to have an official clarification about this park representatives apparent confusion of the law and his recommendation that enforcement is selective at best. Is this a case of "don't ask don't tell" and if so why?

Most people accept the fact that certain items deemed as weapons are not allowed by law in schools, courtrooms along with other government facilities and airports. One has to wonder what is really going on.

According to a spokesperson from the Grand Teton national park, any national park superintendent has the authority to allow their park to be exempt from this law and allow bear spray.

Other have gone so far as to raise the question if a national park superintendent has the authority to allow visitors to carry guns into a national park which I believe at this time to be incorrect.

Another Black Bear rumor circulating on the web is that the bear population in the Great Smoky Mountains national park is occasionally thinned. Simply stated, according to the best possible source, this is not true.

black bear climbs on car in Cades Cove section of the Great Smoky Mountains national park

The Black Bear in the Great Smoky Mountains national park seen above was photographed by me in Cades Cove yesterday afternoon and is clearly behaving at what can be only be described as inappropriate and unsafe behavior that can eventually lead to an unpleasant bear human interaction.

Before the bear climbed up on this vehicle the driver wisely rolled up his window. When the bear climbed up the car door, pulled on the mirror, scratched at the car and then give the window a few taps, the driver revved his engine and rolled his car slowly prompting the bear to back down and walk away from the car.

Unfortunately besides the bear appearing to pan handle and bother this car he crossed the road twice with many people not very far away.

At one point while the black bear was busy in a field tuning over pieces of wood and leaves foraging for food, there were people with cameras on both sides surrounding the bear. Surrounding a wild animal - even one of the deer in Cades Cove could have a very bad outcome.

Fortunately within minutes of this picture being taken an enforcement ranger showed up to keep the traffic moving and the onlookers at a safe distance. The ranger did an excellent job walking back and forth along the roadway and at one point anticipated the bear was going to come in from the field and cross the road over to the woods on the south side.

The ranger politely asked that people move back and away from an area he felt the bear was about to cross and explained why. The only person who did not immediately comply with the park ranger and tried to inch closer to the bear was a middle aged lady who had serious problems walking and needed the assistance of a cane.

The bear in Cades Cove did in fact cross road and after the ranger felt he was to close to the public he banged a stick on the fence and the bear climbed up the hill deeper into the woods but still stayed within 75 feet of the roadway.

This is an example of a bear I do not want to run into on a hiking trail. While a great photo op on the roadside from the safety of a car, in the backcountry a bear showing no significant fear of humans and intense interest in food, exactly as this bear was doing, can be a real issue for an unsuspecting camper of hiker and can become a dangerous bear encounter of the worst kind.

Update 4/24/09 8:00 am. I have been advised this morning that an answer will be forthcoming "early next week".

Update 4/30/09 9:13 pm. Most of the week is gone and I have yet to get the answer if bear spray is legal or not.

Update 5/60/09 5:14 pm. Finally received official clarification about if bear spray is legal or not in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Related Bear Spray and Black Bear News


Anonymous said...

Great story on the bear.

It is pretty clear that this bear has been fed by people in cars.

It is also pretty clear to me that it is simply wishful thinking to hope the bear will unlearn this behavior. According, the Park should shoot the bear.

I know this might sound harsh, and it may seem unfair to the bear, but the damage has already been done by feeding the bear. Keeping it alive is just asking for a bear mauling.

Smokies Hiker said...

Sadly Anonymous 10:21 pm you may be right, though let’s hope a few shots of aversive programming will do the trick.

This was such a handsome creature and as I was backing up away from the bear it looked me right in the face and kept getting ever closer. Not a comfortable feeling.

I never see this behavior in bear away from developed areas, shelters and campsites.

Just like the coyote on Forge Creek Road being feed, bad people turn good animals bad.

I say "bad people" not "uninformed people" as I know of at least 2 "do not feed animals" signs from the entrance of Cades Cove loop to this point.

Can’t read English? The signs have a picture showing "do not feed animals" too.

Anonymous said...

Good article. In your story you mention you didn't think you could carry guns into the park. If I understand correctly, if you have a concealed firearms license for a state and the state that the park is in accepts that state's license, you can carry a firearm into the park.

I'm not 100% sure on this, but as of the end of 2008 I the old rule was over turned.


Smokies Hiker said...

Guns are no longer legal in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The injuction banning firearms in most national parks has not been contested by April 20th so the ban is for good.

Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Thanks Chris. I think this whole debate on whether or not bear spray is legal (or simply allowed/tolerated) in GSMNP can be cleared up if a park official would come out and give a public statement on the issue. Thanks for pursuing this.


Smokies Hiker said...

My new contact emailed me he:

"will begin answering voice messages and emails early next week."

He recognized me at the governor proclamations and promised to have an answer for me.

Today the GSMNP 75th was the most important thing and I did not want to have anything take away from it.

I will gladly wait until "early next week" - it's already been 5 days.

Smokies Hiker said...

Still no answer from the NPS even though "early next week" has come and gone.

I have a feeling that next week will be very interesting!