One of the many highlights of visiting a National Park is the opportunity to observe and photograph wildlife. Shenandoah is certainly no exception: visitors find white-tailed deer, a wide variety of birds, and butterflies, and, with some frequency, black bears. In most cases these wildlife encounters are events that visitors enjoy and that have no impacts on park wildlife. On the other hand, there are some instances when the encounters pose risks to both the visitor and the animal. This web page provides information that will greatly improve your chances to enjoy seeing a black bear in the wild.
We take food storage very seriously because once a bear begins to associate food with humans, problems arise. It is extremely important to keep human food away from bears. Our goal is to keep bears and people safe. Almost every year, park staff members are involved in taking steps to separate people from wildlife (hazing animals or relocating animals). When bears become too comfortable around people, they can become aggressive. In Shenandoah we have an active bear program. You may see our Rangers use non-lethal aversive tacatics to chase a bear out of a developed area. You may see and hear Rangers shouting at bears and chasing them from high-use areas. They may also use rubber slugs or clear paintballs shot from a gun. Be prepared for the associated noises. The intent is not to harm the bear, but to scare it from the area and restore its natural fear of people.
For general information on how visitors should behave when viewing or photographing wildlife, please see the Viewing and Photographing Wildlife web page.
For information specific to interactions with bears, read on …
Keeping Bears and People Separated
When visiting the park you may spot a bear any where (while hiking, camping, on a nature walk, or simply walking between your car and a lodge or restaurant).
If you spot a bear:
Bears may be attracted to your food or garbage when you are picnicking or camping.
To reduce the opportunity for bears to obtain food or garbage:
Avoiding Bears While Hiking
Avoiding Bears While Camping in Developed Areas and the Backcountry
Encountering a Black Bear
If an encounter occurs …
If a bear actually makes contact…
Emergency Line: 800-732-0911
Last updated: September 26, 2019