Forest Service issues alert about black bears

WINCHESTER, Ky. (WKYT) - Warm weather has finally arrived, and that means camping season for many who enjoy the great outdoors.

Daniel Boone National Forest officials are reminding visitors that food storage requirements apply when camping or picnicking in the national forest.

“This policy is designed to help prevent conflict with black bears,” said Forest Biologist Sandie Kilpatrick.

“The intent of the food storage order is to promote visitor safety and prevent bears from associating food with people. Once bears learn to associate food with humans, they can lose their natural fear of people and expect them to provide an easy meal.”

Visitors must store food inside a hardtop vehicle or bear-resistant container when not cooking or eating. Burning or burying food, trash or any other bear attractant is prohibited.

Backcountry campers must suspend food and garbage at least 10 feet off the ground and four feet out from any tree or pole.

A bear attractant is any substance with an odor that may attract bears. Food, cooking oil, toothpaste, soap and garbage are considered attractants.

The Forest Service has installed bear-resistant trash cans at most developed campgrounds and picnic areas. These containers must be used for garbage disposal where they occur in the national forest.

“We have a growing population of black bears in eastern Kentucky, and our national forest provides excellent habitat,” added Kilpatrick. “We all just need to become more bear-aware and practice safety when visiting their home.”

To avoid human-bear conflicts, see the following tips.

• Never feed a bear. In Kentucky, feeding bears is illegal.
• When camping or picnicking, follow policy by storing food and garbage inside your vehicle or in a bear-resistant container.
• In remote locations, suspend food and garbage off the ground and away from the supporting tree or pole. Storing food and garbage up to 100 yards away from your campsite is recommended.
• Never store food or other potential bear attractants inside your tent. Cook food and eat in locations away from your sleeping area.
• Never leave food scraps in your campfire pit or at your campsite.
• Never approach a bear. If you accidently come upon a bear, back away slowly. Do not run; this could prompt a chase.
• If a bear approaches you, make lots of noise. Remain standing upright. Never lay down to play dead or turn your back on an approaching black bear.

The proper storage of food and trash will also help prevent unwanted encounters with other wildlife species, such as raccoons, skunks and opossums.

All bear encounters on national forest lands should be reported to the nearest U.S. Forest Service office or to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. In an emergency, call 911