Part of Appalachian Trail closed to overnight camping

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LURAY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Part of the Appalachian Trail in the Shenandoah National Park is currently closed to overnight camping.

The national park says this is due to recent incidents involving bears gaining access to camper food.

The closure extends from Riprap Trailhead to just south of Wildcat Ridge parking where the AT crosses Skyline Drive.

The park says the 2.5-mile camping closure does not impact any designated campsites or trail shelters or the trail itself. Only off-trail camping is affected.

At this time, there is no word on when the off-trail camping closure will be lifted.

According to a release, there have been two recent interactions involving black bears that gained access to food.

Hikers are advised to never approach or feed a bear, never store food or scented items in tents, and make sure a bear has an escape route.

They should also make noise such as speaking in an assertive voice, singing or clapping, and avoid making direct eye contact with the animal.

Do not run from a bear, but hikers should slowly back away, especially if the bear makes a series of huffing sounds, popping jaw sounds by snapping its jaws and swatting the ground, which are all signs the bear thinks the human is too close.

Bears may stand up on their back legs or move closer if curious and trying to get a better view or pick up a scent in the air. This is not usually considered threatening behavior.

If cornered, bears will sometimes “bluff charge” if they feel threatened or are trying to defend a food source. People should stand their ground while avoiding direct eye contact and then slowly back away.

To scare a bear away, people should make loud noises, such as banging pans together or using an air horn, and make themselves look big by waving their arms. If hiking with another person, stand close together with arms raised above the head.

Bear spray should be used only as a last resort and directly sprayed at the sensitive nasal and eye areas.

The release says, though rare, if a black bear attacks, people should fight back, aiming specifically for the animal's eyes and nose.

Any contact with a bear, even one hanging out near a campground, should be reported to part staff by calling (800) 732-0911.

For more tips, click on the link in the Related Links box.

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