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Black bears, also known as the American Bear or “Ursus Americanus”, are the beloved icons of the Blue Ridge mountains and Appalachian region.

Black bears are indigenous to North America only. These bears are considered ‘threatened’ by the US Fish and Wildlife Service but thanks to naturalists, wildlife agencies and concerned citizens, the bears are beginning to thrive again in our wilderness lands.

That said, the Parkway’s high visitation rate (approximately 16 million people annually) and numerous developed areas coupled with a growing bear population is increasingly creating situations where bear/human conflict is likely.

In addition, the Blue Ridge Parkway’s campground system was recently added to the reservation system, which is expected to increase camping visitation rates above current levels.

Since 2001, the Parkway has reported an average of 30 major bear incidents per year. Bears cause between $1,000 and $2,000 in property damage each year in the park—primarily the result of bears breaking into vehicles in order to obtain food and other attractants left in vehicles. Over the past several years, the Parkway has had to euthanize several bears due to aggressive behavior as a direct result of bears having easy access to human food and garbage.

The lack of bear proof trashcans and adequate food storage containers in campgrounds was identified as a factor in nearly all of the bear incidents reported over the past ten years.

As the park’s bear population continues to grow, additional bear – human conflicts are likely without management intervention. Experience at other national park units indicates that improved sanitation and removal of human food and garbage in conjunction with education of park visitors can greatly reduce the likelihood of bears becoming habituated to human activity.


At Yosemite for example, where black bears are a tremendous problem, metal food lockers are available in every campsite, most trailhead parking areas, at lodging areas with tent cabins and at backpacker campgrounds. While a bear can smell food in a locker, the bear can’t get into the locker if it’s closed and latched properly.

The Blue Ridge Parkway maintains nine frontcountry campgrounds consisting of approximately 1,040 campsites and two backcountry campgrounds, consisting of approximately 20 campsites. Frontcountry are those outdoor areas that are easily accessible by vehicle and include any developed sites. Backcounty areas are more remote.

The NPS has requested 75 food storage lockers to provide shared food storage facilities for the campgrounds.

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