Safety in Bear Country

black bear
black bear feeding in the forest


Black bears are wild and their behavior is sometimes unpredictable. Although extremely rare, attacks on humans have occurred, inflicting serious injuries and death. Treat bear encounters with extreme caution and follow these guidelines:

If you see a bear, remain watchful. Do not approach it. If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its direction of travel, watches you, etc.) YOU ARE TOO CLOSE. Being too close may promote aggressive behavior from the bear such as running toward you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground. The bear is demanding more space. Don't run, but slowly back away, watching the bear. Try to increase the distance between you and the bear.

If a bear persistently follows or approaches you without vocalizing or paw swatting, try changing your direction. If the bear continues to follow you. stand your ground. If the bear gets closer, talk loudly or shout at it. Act aggresively and try to intimidate the bear. Act together as a group if you have companions. Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground). Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear. Use a deterrent such as a stout stick. Do not run and do not turn away from the bear. Don't leave food for the bear, this encourages further problems.

truck and tent at the campground
camping in the Wilderness Road campground


In the campground, all food and garbage must be kept sealed in a vehicle (preferably the trunk), or as otherwise directed, at all times when not in use. Unattended or improperly stored coolers and food may be impounded by park staff and kept at the campground office. This regulation will be strictly enforced and violators are subject to fines.


Most injuries from black bear attacks are minor and result from a bear attempting to get at people's food. If the bear's behavior indicates that it is after your food and you're physically attacked, separate yourself from the food and slowly back away.

If the bear shows no interest in your food and you're physically attacked, fight back aggressively with any available object-the bear might consider you prey!

Help protect others. Report all bear incidents to a park ranger immediately. Above all, keep your distance from bears!

In an emergency call the park visitor center at (606) 248-2817, extension 1075 or after hours call the Cumberland Gap Tunnel at (606) 248-0996.


Do your part to "Back the Bears"

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park offers a wide range of activities and programs focusing on black bears and doing our part to keep them wild.

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29 seconds

Short video focusing on the need to properly dispose of trash to protect black bears.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

91 Bartlett Park Road
Middlesboro, KY 40965


606 248-2817

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