Spike in bear encounters reported to Forest Service

A spike in bear sightings and bold confrontations with humans could mean problems for visitors in the North Carolina mountains.

The Forest Service is now considering requiring campers to use bear-proof containers.

Forest Service officials said they've been getting about 10 calls a week about bear encounters and that number is probably higher because many people don't report it.

There have been no reports of injuries during the encounters.

"Bears are starting to get more habituated with people, and they are associating people with food,” said Josh Caulder, an employee at the Grandfather Mountain Campground near Blowing Rock. “They are hungry, so they are starting to follow hikers."

"I can see tenters leaving their food out on the table,” camper Kathleen Newer said. “That’s a recipe for disaster."

"Clean up after yourself,” Caulder said. “Your mom isn't here to clean up for you, so you have to take the initiative to clean up your trash."

Bears still learn how to get to people’s food despite efforts to prevent it from happening.

"When you fire shots to scare them, they get used to the noise the third or fourth time," Caulder said.

The excessive rain leads to more acorns deep in the forest, which could keep bears away from humans.