Increasing bear encounters close Cherokee National Forest campground

Horse Greek Campground in the Unaka Ranger District in the Cherokee National Forest is closed until further notice.
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 7:48 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Tenn. (WVLT) - Cherokee National Forest officials announced the immediate closure of one of their campgrounds on Tuesday after campers reported dangerous bear encounters.

Horse Creek Campground in the Unaka Ranger District is closed for further notice.

“Due to food storage non-compliance, bear encounters are increasing in Cherokee National Forest campgrounds risking visitor and bear safety,” said forest officials.

Campers reported an increase in dangerous bear encounters across the National Forest campgrounds, primarily north of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

As a result, forest officials decided to close the campground.

Additionally, they wanted to remind campers and forest visitors of food storage restrictions. Campers must store food, waste or other bear attractants properly, meaning in a bear-resistant container or trash receptacle, in a closed hard-top motor vehicle or travel trailer, in a hard-sided residence or suspended at least 12 feet off the ground and 6 feet from limbs.

The forest supervisor can also approve other storage methods, but campers must acquire a permit before storing.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials also shared what to do if you encounter a bear.