After several reports of visitors feeding and attempting to hold a young bear in recent weeks at the Lane Pinnacle Overlook, officials closed the Blue Ridge Parkway from milepost 367.6 near the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area to milepost 375.6 at Ox Creek Road until further notice. Park visitors can access the Craggy Gardens recreational area via N.C. 80 from the north; however, until the road reopens, the visitor center at milepost 364.5 will remain closed.
“When people attract bears and begin to interact with them, it can be very dangerous. We are hoping that by closing the area, it will give the chance for the bear to lose interest and leave so that no harm comes to visitors or our natural wildlife,” says Blue Ridge Parkway coordinator Leesa Brandon.
While seeing bears in this section of the parkway is not uncommon, Brandon says the number of reports they received for the recent interactions is unusual.
“Multiple reports of human and bear interactions is not common,” says Brandon. “The circumstances of this situation — a smaller bear and the high level of traffic in October at this particularly popular location — contributed to the decision to close this section of the parkway. Typically where there is a smaller, younger bear, there is also a full-grown mother bear that is protective of her cubs.”
While federal law prohibits feeding or approaching within 150 feet of a bear, with penalties ranging from a $100 fine to six months’ imprisonment, none of the reported visitors have been cited. Brandon says they are “receiving secondhand information after the interaction, which makes it difficult to pursue visitors who may have been involved in these activities.”
Brandon encourages visitors and neighbors to keep food out of sight and follow the safety tips from BearWise, a national educational program used by the N.C. Wildlife Commission. For guidelines on how to handle black bear encounters, visit the BearWise website at avl.mx/d62.
If anyone encounters a bear while on the parkway, call parkway dispatch at 828-298-2491 or stop at a visitor center to report the encounter.
Good to know
- The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources honored 72 water treatment plants for surpassing federal and state drinking water standards in 2022. The Ivy River water treatment plant in Weaverville received the “gold star” honor, which is an award for systems that have received the N.C. Area Wide Optimization Award for 10 or more consecutive years.
- The Blue Horizons Project, a program of the nonprofit Green Built Alliance, announced the release of its Strategic Plan for Transitioning Buncombe County to 100% Renewable Energy by 2042. The plan defines the community’s current energy use and details how Buncombe County can achieve its clean energy goals for increasing cost savings, cleaner air and water, workforce development and climate resiliency. The full plan can be found at avl.mx/d64.
- GreenWorks is hosting its final Hard 2 Recycle cleanup event on Saturday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Locals are encouraged to bring recyclables, including electronics, books and Styrofoam, for proper disposal. More information regarding what can be recycled, as well as information for those interested in volunteering, can be found at avl.mx/d5g.
- The Pigeon River Fund of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina awarded 10 grants totaling $285,190 to environmental groups working to improve surface water quality, enhance fish and wildlife habitats, expand public use and access to waterways, and increase water-quality awareness in Buncombe, Haywood and Madison counties. More information can be found at avl.mx/d63.
- Conserving Carolina purchased 21 acres of mountain land on the north side of Lake Lure as a potential addition to Buffalo Creek Park and the site of a future trail in the Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail system. This property is part of the land needed to link the Weed Patch Mountain Trail with the Youngs Mountain Trail.
- The N.C. Land and Water Fund awarded the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy $4.37 million for its Deaverview Mountain project, getting the project nearly halfway to its $8.8 million funding goal. The funds will be used to conserve Deaverview Mountain by turning the 343-acre mountaintop into a public park.
- The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently assisted the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in purchasing 67 acres in Madison County to add to the Sandy Mush Game Lands. Formerly used for farming, the tract contains open and forested areas and will provide a connection to the public game lands from the Madison County side.
- RiverLink has partnered with Darby Communications to generate momentum for RiverLink’s Reduce Rain Runoff campaign, centered around stormwater education and promoting action in the greater French Broad region to reduce stormwater and runoff pollution. The campaign was made possible through a $50,500 grant from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and a $10,000 grant from Duke Energy Foundation.