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[at-l] Close Encounters With Bears Cause Temporary Closure of NW, GA Wilderness Site

USDA Forest Service

Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests 

Close Encounters With Bears Cause Temporary Closure of Wilderness Site 

National Forests

News Release

USDA Forest Service
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests

Contact: Karen Braddy
(770) 297-3061
Release:   Immediate

Chatsworth—The USDA Forest Service has temporarily closed a 
2,500 acre section of the Cohutta Wilderness due to numerous bear/human 
encounters in the area.  This closure, which affects the Jacks River Drainage 
in the northern portion of the wilderness, goes into effect Saturday, July 
29th, and will remain in effect until Forest Service and  Georgia Department 
of Natural Resource officials determine that the 
risks for bear/human conflicts have been reduced.

The Cohutta Wilderness, located in the rugged mountains of Northwest Georgia, 
is one of the largest wilderness areas in the Southeastern United States at 
35,268 acres.  This wilderness receives high public use.  The combination of 
public use and a large bear population concentrated in areas frequented by 
the public has resulted in a situation that is dangerous for both the humans 
and the bears.

“We hate to close a portion of this popular wilderness,” 
Forest Service District Ranger Alan Polk explained, “but we want to avoid any 
injuries that might occur from these bears looking for an easy meal from 
camper’s backpacks or tents.”  The public and Forest Service officials have 
observed at least six bears, including a female bear and her three cubs, 
frequenting the area near the heavily used Beech Bottom 
Campsite within the Wilderness. Polk stated, “These bears have been getting 
food from backpacks left unattended at night or not properly stored or from 
scraps left on the 
ground.  The bears now associate food with human presence.  We want to close 
the area so the bears will disperse and go back to looking for food in their 
natural environment.” 

The closure will encompass the section of the Jacks River Drainage, beginning 
at the Jacks River Bridge and concluding upstream at Penitentiary Branch, 
including Jacks River Falls.  This area includes about 17 miles of trails 
within the Cohutta Wilderness.  The  Jacks River Trailhead parking lot and 
the Beech Bottom parking lot will be closed.  Portions of the following 
trails are also closed:  Beech 
Bottom, Jacks River, Penitentiary Branch, Rough Ridge,  Horseshoe Bend, Rice 
Camp and Hickory Ridge.  For additional information on this closure, contact 
the Cohutta Ranger District at (706) 695-6736. 

Polk said, “We will monitor the bear activity over the next couple of weeks 
and when we feel that they have left the area and started foraging away from 
the campsites and hiking trail, then we’ll reopen the area.”  
The Forest Service is working closely with the Georgia Department of Natural 
Resources Wildlife Resources Division to address this situation.  “We’ll also 
be working to educate campers and backpackers on how to properly store their 
food so as not to attract the bears to an easy meal,” he concluded.

Forest Service officials recommend that campers and hikers 
use the 168 miles of trails on the Cohutta District that are not impacted by 
this closure.  Also, more than 105,000 acres of the district are open for 
public use. 

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