Officials Close 8-Mile Highway Stretch At National Park Because People Can’t Stop Trying To Hold Young Bear

(Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

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An eight-mile section of a highway near Asheville, North Carolina, will be temporarily closed due to visitors’ repeated interactions with a young bear, the National Park Service (NPS) reported Monday.

Since Monday, Oct. 30, the segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway has remained closed until further notice. The decision came as a result of numerous reports of visitors feeding and attempting to hold the bear, according to the NPS.

Although the recreational area will remain accessible via NC80 from the north, the visitor center at milepost 364.5 will stay closed until the road reopens, the statement reads. (RELATED: Pennsylvania Black Bear Attack Injures Two Young Children)

“We are closing this section of the road temporarily for the safety of both the bear and park visitors,” Superintendent Tracy Swartout said in the announcement. “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.”

Fall marks a crucial period for bears, who may forage up to 20 hours daily, seeking to gain weight for winter hibernation. This pre-hibernation period is referred to as hyperphagia.

The NPS advises against feeding the bears, since this can lead to the animals losing their natural wariness of humans and preference for natural food sources. The agency emphasizes the importance of following bear safety protocols, particularly in relation to food storage, to ensure the well-being of both the bears and park visitors.