"When people intentionally attract bears with trash and food, it can lead to very dangerous situations," Blue Ridge Parkway officials said in a statement
An eight-mile stretch of a North Carolina parkway has been closed after visitors to the area tried to approach a black bear cub.
Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) officials announced on Tuesday that they were temporarily shutting down a section of the scenic route in Asheville from milepost 367 near the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area to milepost 375 at Ox Creek Road after multiple documented reports of people feeding and attempting to hold a young bear at the Lane Pinnacle Overlook.
"We are closing this section of the road temporarily for the safety of both the bear and park visitors," Superintendent Tracy Swartout said in a statement on Facebook.
"When people intentionally attract bears with trash and food, it can lead to very dangerous situations. In this instance, we want to give the bear a chance to lose interest in the area before the situation escalates and visitors or the bear are harmed," Swartout continued.
The post included a photo of several people standing just feet away from a young bear leaning against the inner side of a guardrail at the overlook. They can be seen surrounding the bear as they take photos of the animal.
BRP warned that fall is a "critical time of year" for bears, as they spend as many as 20 hours a day foraging for food to put on extra weight in preparation for their winter hibernation.
"During this time, bears actively seek out natural foods but will also take advantage of human foods when presented with the opportunity," the statement said.
Officials urged visitors and area residents to keep food out of sight, follow the bear safety tips outlined on BRP's website, and immediately report any bear encounters.
The Blue Ridge Parkway — which spans the southern and central Appalachians — draws more than a million visitors annually. It is renowned for its biodiversity, offering visitors an opportunity to experience a wide variety of wildlife, regional flora, and other geological features.
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In September, Walt Disney World was forced to delay the morning opening of several areas in the Magic Kingdom after a cast member spotted a wild black bear perched in a tree during a routine pre-opening check of the Orlando, Florida, theme park.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was called to the scene, and officials later managed to safely capture the animal and remove it from the park, allowing the closed areas to be reopened to visitors.
"In most cases, it is best for bears to be given space and to move along on their own, but given this situation, staff have captured the animal and are relocating the bear out of the park to an area in or around the Ocala National Forest," the FWC said in a statement at the time.
The agency echoed the Blue Ridge Parkway's warning that bears become more active between September and November.
"During the fall, bears are more active as they search for food to pack on fat reserves for the winter. This particular bear was likely moving through the area searching for food," the FWC said.
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