For the third year in a row the Friends of the Smokies and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy have teamed up to string bear cables in the backcountry of Great Smoky Mountains National Park so backpackers can keep food and gear away from bruins.
The Conservancy has provided $1,110 from its specialty license plate funds to help reduce black bear access to backpacker food along the Appalachian Trail.
“Both groups share an interest in safe backcountry experiences, keeping wildlife wild, and working with partners,” said Stephen Woody, treasurer for the Friends of the Smokies' board of directors. “Plus, with a backpacker on the A.T. plate and a black bear on the Smokies plate, it’s hard to think of a better project for us to work together on.”
Using the grant funds from the ATC, Great Smoky Mountains National Park staff and wildlife interns have repaired cables at the Mollies Ridge shelter and Cosby Knob shelter, which had become damaged by the elements and use over time. With proper and vigilant use by backpackers, the repaired storage system will continue to increase both visitor and bear safety by helping reduce the number of bears raiding shelter areas in the park.
According to Bill Stiver, a park wildlife biologist, “as backpackers continue to hang their food, the cables protect hikers and campers. Not to mention keeping the bears from learning to depend on human food.”
Friends of the Smokies and the ATC have also partnered to renovate many of the backcountry shelters along the A.T. in the Smokies and to support several other efforts to address trail maintenance and hiker safety.
Friends would like to thank both ATC and Friends’ license plate owners whose ownership helps support projects like these in GSMNP.
“It’s all about preserving and protecting two great national park units, visitor experience and their natural resources,” said Holly Demuth, North Carolina director of Friends of the Smokies. “We do best when we work together.”