Popular GSMNP trail and shelter closed for bear activity

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park closed the Mt. LeConte backcountry shelter and the popular Cliff Tops area due to aggressive bear activity in the area.

Trails leading to the summit of Mt. LeConte are still open, but the park is encouraging hikers to walk in tight groups of three or more and carry bear spray. The park has extra staff stationed to monitor the situation as well.

According to a release, one of the park’s wildlife technicians ran into an aggressive bear near the trail to Cliff Tops. The ranger, who is trained to deal with bears, explained that loud noises and attempts to scare the creature did nothing to deter it from advancing. The bear followed the ranger back to the LeConte Lodge area before finally retreating into the forest.

“Hiking in bear country requires caution at all times,” said Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan in a release. “We seldom fully close trail areas, but the unusually aggressive behavior exhibited by this bear warrants action by staff and special precautions by hikers.”

In addition to closing the Mt. Le Conte backcountry shelter and Cliff Tops trail, officials have updated the park website to list bear warnings in the following places:

– Laurel Falls Trail
– Mt. Le Conte Lodge area
– Shuckstack Tower along the AT
– Russell Field Shelter
– Backcountry Campsites 24, 113

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UPDATE: Rangers euthanize aggressive bear in the Smokies

Rangers at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park had to euthanize a black bear May 19, 2015. They said the bear was so aggressive, there was no other choice.

Rangers caught the bear near Mt. Le Conte Tuesday morning. After going through several steps, they decided it had to be put down.

That bear chased a park ranger Sunday evening and prompted a trail closure.

“Clearly when you looked at the behavior of the bear it was predatory behavior. Which is incredibly rare with black bears,” said park spokesperson Dana Soehn. “We follow a strict standard when looking at any bear situation and a decision to euthanize a bear is never made lightly here in the park.”

Rangers say this is a rare occurrence.

 

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