Trail Notes: It’s the season to be bear-aware

Trail Team 11

TWRA posted a photo of the yearling black bear that climbed a tree at Morningside Park.

Do you know what to do if you come across a bear on the trail? I figured now is as good time as any to talk about being bear aware as bears are trying to stuff as many calories into their bellies before hibernation.

According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, black bears are most common in two areas of the state: along the Tennessee-North Carolina border and in the northern part of the Cumberland Plateau.

In Virginia, the Department of Wildlife Resources lists bears as occupying most counties of the Commonwealth, with occasional sightings reported in more coastal areas.

While I have never encountered a bear while hiking, I know several hikers/mountain bikers/trail runners who have. Bear sightings aren’t uncommon in our area – remember the bear on ETSU’s campus this fall? So, at the urging of my hiking friend S’more, here’s some quick tips when dealing with bear encounters.


According to, there’s several simple steps to help avoid bear encounters while on the trail. They include:
– hike in groups
– keep kids within sight
– keep dogs on leash
– make noise in thick cover

When camping, never store food in your tent and cook 100 yards from your tent. You also should clean cooking area thoroughly. Store food, trash and other scented items in a hardtop vehicle with windows closed and doors locked if camping near the vehicle. If backpacking, use a bear-resistant container or hang a bear bag.


According to, if you see a bear, speak calmly. Back away from it slowly. This lets the bear know you’re a human and that you’re not threatening it. Also making yourself look larger is often recommended.

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