Search for bear threatens local tourism

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Sections of the Red River Gorge remain closed while search teams continue looking for the bear responsible for the first human attack in modern times. Several sightings have prompted Fish and Wildlife officials to set traps, but the bear still hasn't been captured, and forest officials fear it may attack again.

Meanwhile, as the hunt drags on, area business owners worry about the growing economic impact. "I believe it's overkill," rental cabin owner Sam Brown said about the response to the bear attack.

Brown isn't the only one frustrated by the closing of the Red River Gorge. He says he's starting to lose business from disappointed customers, and he wishes the Forest Service would reopen. "I think they're overplaying it just like the movie, "Jaws," when they closed the whole scene," Brown said.

With the Fourth of July approaching, forest officials say they are keeping tourism in mind, but they have to make public safety their first priority. "We know that we're seeing increasing numbers of bears in Kentucky," Forest Supervisor Frank Beum said, "This action wouldn't have been taken except that the bear exhibited predatory behavior and harm to human, so we take that seriously, and that's why we have it closed right now to try and capture that bear."

But in the meantime, business owners like Brown worry about the impact on the local economy. "Particularly this weekend, the Fourth of July, it will be a substantial impact because people are already wanting to reschedule," Brown said, "I have a person calling from Cincinnati tonight who is wanting to reschedule if they don't have any concrete information about whether they open the trails or not, they don't want to come."

Beum says the Red River Gorge could open up with limited access, but they haven't made a decision yet.

Forest officials say they plan to keep the Red River Gorge closed until at least Thursday, and they'll decide in the next day or two whether to reopen for the weekend if the bear still hasn't been captured.

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