GATLINBURG, Tenn.— After a visitor within their vehicle encountered a bear that has become habituated to humans and vehicles, Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that Rich Mountain Road in the Cades Cove area will be closed to all traffic until further notice. The visitor experienced minor scratches and did not contribute to the bear’s habituation. The road will be closed to give bears in the area an opportunity to eat and forage undisturbed.
“By closing Rich Mountain Road, we are protecting people and bears,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “When people intentionally attract bears with human food or pet food it can lead to a dangerous situation for visitors, local communities, and the bears.”
August is a critical time of year for bears when berries, acorns, and other primary food sources are not in season. Bears will often approach vehicles in search of food. Once someone throws food out of a vehicle toward a bear, or leaves food on the ground, the bear becomes conditioned to that food and that experience. Over time, food-conditioned bears may become bold and aggressive in their attempts to obtain human food and may approach vehicles and people. A female bear will teach that inappropriate and dangerous behavior to her cubs.
Park visitors and residents of local communities can help ensure their safety and the future of black bears by taking responsible steps to prevent bears from becoming conditioned to human food, pet food, and trash. Never intentionally approach, feed, or leave food or trash out for a bear. Do not stop along roadways in the vicinity of bears and always remain 50 yards (150 feet) or more from bears. Photographers should use telephoto lenses. For tips and more information, visit BearWise®, which teaches people how to live and recreate responsibly in bear habitat.
To report a bear incident or unusual bear activity in the Smokies, call 865-436-1230. For more information about temporary road and trail closures at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please visit the park’s Current Road, Facility, Trail & Backcountry Updates webpage.
- National Park Service release