Another close bear encounter in Shenandoah Park involving food

Shenandoah National Park officials late Wednesday afternoon warned of another close bear encounter involving food packed in by hikers, this latest incident on the summit of Old Rag Mountain south of Sperryville.

It is the second such bear incident in a week’s time involving human food.

Photo by Jack Cumming, via National Park Service Photo by Jack Cumming, via National Park Service

“We need to talk seriously about bears!” officials said this afternoon, hoping to get people’s attention. “When a bear obtains human food, a dangerous situation is created. The bear will be incredibly persistent about getting more. This [incident] has just happened at the summit of Old Rag and we are dealing with the consequences. We need your help at Old Rag (and throughout the park!)”

The park released a photograph, snapped by Jack Cumming and posted by the park on its social media sites shortly before 4 p.m., of a bear dashing away from the top of Old Rag carrying in its mouth what appears to be a plastic bag containing food. A person is standing a few yards beyond the bear, with Cumming, who took the picture, on the bruin’s other side.

To address the situation at Old Rag, the park has now “greatly increased the ranger presence at the trailhead, and along the trail to educate visitors. Trained bear management staff will also be at the summit.”

“Please do your part whenever you are in Shenandoah for your and our bears’ safety!” the park stated.

Shenandoah Park issued these reminders today:

— Keep your food in your pack and your pack on your back!

— Don’t put food where a bear can get it for any length of time!

— Don’t surrender your food to a bear.

— If a bear approaches, make noise, stay in a group, and throw rocks.

— Pack out all food and trash.

— Report all bear encounters to a Ranger.

Just last week, the park temporarily closed eight designated campsites after a bear tried to steal a backpack from inside a tent that apparently contained food.

The incident took place at a camping site between mileposts 84 and 87 on Skyline Drive. Specifically, the tent was pitched at the Blackrock Hut/Shelter — off the Appalachian Trail (AT) between Blackrock Summit Parking Area and Blackrock Gap.

Because of the increased risk to both camper — and bear — safety, Superintendent Jennifer Flynn issued the temporary closure to overnight camping at the eight sites until tomorrow, July 11.

After learning of the bear encounter, one person wrote on the park’s website that visitors need to use “common sense” when camping in the backcountry: “Bears live in the woods! Yes it’s their home. Don’t make them pay with their lives because of stupidity.”

“Usually these incidents are not the bear’s fault,” wrote another person.

Bear experts says people who carry food into the wilderness need to pack it in either hard-sided canisters and (to a lesser degree) soft-sided bear-resistant food sacks.

If anybody becomes aware of a situation where a bear is “hanging out” in a campground or picnic area, or where people are deliberately feeding a bear, or if somebody is involved in a bluff charge situation or an actual contact incident, please report it to park staff immediately via Shenandoah’s emergency line: 800-732-0911.

About John McCaslin 477 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at

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