Bear problem closes part of Great Smoky Mountains park

Observer Staff ReportsJuly 3, 2014 

A black bear reaches for some of the ripe cherries in the Gregory Bald area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

JIM BENNETT — National Park Service

— A portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be closed during the Fourth of July holiday weekend because of concerns about black bears, according to park officials.

Gregory Bald and nearby trails, including Gregory Bald Trail and Wold Ridge Trail, have been closed because at least a dozen bears are in the area. The attraction, park officials said, is ripe cherries.

Authorities said there have been several close encounters in recent days between hikers and bears. Wildlife biologists will keep an eye on the situation, and park officials said they expect the bears to disperse when they’ve eaten the cherries.

“We regret the inconvenience to park visitors who were looking forward to a hike to Gregory Bald,” said Cindy MacLeod, the acting park superintendent. “However, we feel this temporary closure is necessary to ensure the bears have an opportunity to feed undisturbed on natural foods, and also to protect our visitors from defensive bear behavior.”

Gregory Bald is near the middle of the park, along the border of Swain County in North Carolina and Blount County in Tennessee.

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