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A video podcast, Day Hiking and Wildlife, associated with the recently launched program “Reward Yourself - Hike the Smokies Challenge”, is now available for viewing. This 6-minute podcast is the second of a three-part series on hiking safety and informs the viewer of wildlife behavior, particularly black bears, and the appropriate responses and regulations to be followed by Park visitors. The podcast, developed by Great Smoky Mountains Association, is attractively done and illustrated with beautiful footage of the Smoky Mountains and wildlife, and can be viewed at the Hike the Smokies Challenge webpage.
The chance of seeing wildlife in the backcountry is one of the exciting things about hiking, but it is important to understand the rules and regulations and proper etiquette for a safe and rewarding experience when visiting. The video podcast is an indepth educational piece about bear country and sets up practical advice and emphasizes park regulations for keeping bears wild and away from people and developed areas. Kim Delozier, the park’s chief wildlife biologist, is featured in the podcast and emphasizes the responses people should make and actions to take if encountered by a bear on a trail.
Avoiding bear problems always starts with keeping food and garbage away from bears. Once bears obtain human food, they lose their fear of people and can cause problems or pose risks to people. Never feed bears or discard of food scraps such as fruit rinds along a trail. Backcountry users should never approach bears and always keep a safe distance. It is required that people do not approach within 50 yards or closer or any distance that displaces or disturbs a bear. “If the animal changes its behavior, e.g. stops feeding or changes directions, you are too close,” explains Delozier. He continued, “Human/bear conflicts have resulted in people getting injured, but if you follow the advice of how to respond to bear encounters provided in the video, you will minimize your chances of being harmed and maximize the chances of the bear keeping wild and away from people.”
“We hope that this video will be another tool to help hikers safely observe wildlife in its natural habitat which is one of the privileges we gain by preserving this great landscape for all to enjoy,” said Cathleen Cook, Chief of Resource Education.
Reward Yourself – Hike the Smokies Challenge is a program to encourage visitors to get outdoors and exercise while also discovering the natural beauty of the Smokies. The challenge is to keep track and record the mileage from each trail excursion, even if it is the same trail day after day. Pocket-sized booklets to record mileage are available for $1.00 at the park’s three visitor centers. As a recreational benefit, when a person has “hiked” 100 miles, 250 miles, and 500 miles, he/she can bring their mileage record to one of the three visitor centers to receive a mileage pin and be recorded in the “Hike the Smokies” 2010 web records.
The first podcast developed for this program is Day Hiking in the Smokies: Expect the Unexpected, a 5-minute video on weather and how to prepare and respond to potential weather extremes and the mountainous terrain.
This project was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation through the generous support of The Coca-Cola Foundation, a Proud Partner of America’s National Parks, and in cooperation with Great Smoky Mountains Association and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.