GREAT MEADOWS — UPDATE: Great Meadows will reopen Friday following the removal of food and trash. Daniel Boone National Forest officials believe the bears have moved out of the area.
Two campgrounds are currently closed in the Daniel Boone National Forest due to black bears. New regulations are in place for campers.
Holly Bay Campground at Laurel River Lake was closed on Saturday after a bear approached campers and raided a cooler for food. Great Meadows Campground in McCreary County was also closed on Saturday after a bear closely approached visitors. Hemlock Grove was temporarily closed on Sunday but reopened on Monday.
Biologists with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources are attempting to capture and move the bears away from the campgrounds.
The campgrounds will remain closed until the bears are captured and moved or until officials determine that the bears have moved outside of the campgrounds.
“Due to the drought, this year’s berry crop was lost much earlier than normal in most parts of eastern Kentucky,” said Steven Dobey, Bear Biologist with KDFWR. “Berries are a primary important food source in mid-summer and without them, bears roam widely in search for food.
“Bears are coming to campgrounds because their numbers in Kentucky are naturally increasing, and because they are hungry. They’re simply looking for food in areas where people are not accustomed to seeing bears,” added Dobey.
Forest Service officials are reminding visitors that food storage orders are in place at several locations to help prevent conflict with bears. A new food storage order was issued last Friday for the London Ranger District of the Daniel Boone National Forest. An order to include all national forest lands is being considered.
When camping or picnicking in the Red River Gorge, Stearns Ranger District and London Ranger District, visitors must store food inside their vehicle or in a bear-resistant container when not cooking or eating. Burning or burying food, trash or any other bear attractant is also prohibited.
Backcountry campers, outside of developed campsites, must suspend food and garbage at least 10 feet off the ground and four feet away from the tree or pole used for suspension.
A bear attractant is defined as any substance having an odor that may attract bears. Food, cooking grease, toothpaste, soap and garbage are considered attractants.
“The intent of the food storage orders is to promote visitor safety and prevent bears from expecting food handouts from people,” said Sandie Kilpatrick, Forest Biologist with the Daniel Boone National Forest. “Once bears lose their natural fear of people, the chance of negative encounters is increased and puts bears at risk of having to be euthanized.
“The food storage requirement is a big change for visitors who are used to camping in developed recreation areas and keeping their food nearby, but the increasing bear population calls for increased safety measures.
“In Kentucky, the bears are back, and they’re here to stay,” said Kilpatrick. “Kentucky is now bear country, and we all need to become more ‘bear aware’ for our safety and theirs.”
Some safety tips on how to avoid human-bear conflicts are:
• Never feed a bear. This causes bears to associate food with humans. In Kentucky, feeding bears intentionally or unintentionally is illegal.
• When camping or picnicking, follow food storage restriction policies where they apply. In remote locations, suspend food and garbage off the ground and away way from the supporting tree or pole.
• Never store food or other potential bear attractants inside your tent. Cook food and eat in locations away from your sleeping area. Store food and garbage up to 100 yards away from 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.
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.