Appalachian Trail Shelter in NJ Temporarily Closed After Bear Tried to Enter Tent



The Brink Road Shelter at northbound mile 1321.8 on the Appalachian Trail (in New Jersey’s Stokes State Forest) is temporarily closed after a black bear reportedly tried to enter a hiker’s tent on Wednesday night.

Hikers should plan their itineraries accordingly to avoid camping at the shelter until further notice,” the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry announced in a Facebook post on Thursday.

“The bear showed no fear of humans and reportedly entered the shelter,” the Appalachian Trail Conservancy advised in an alert on its website. “It is not known if this is the same bear reported near Millbrook-Blairstown Road. All area visitors should use caution and avoid the shelter, including for breaks. Hikers should plan to fill up on water elsewhere.”

Hikers can find camping and reliable water at Gren Anderson Shelter roughly six miles north of Brink Road Shelter. South of the shelter, there is a dry tentsite at northbound mile 1317 and a reliable stream at mile 1318.

The tenters involved in Wednesday night’s bear encounter may have been thru-hikers: an employee at an outdoor store in Branchville, NJ who spoke to the hikers the morning after the incident told PennLive that after picking up a tent repair kit, the pair “got back on the trail and headed for Maine.”

READ NEXT – Appalachian Trail State Profile: New Jersey

Bears on the Appalachian Trail

This is far from the first time authorities have temporarily shuttered an Appalachian Trail Shelter due to bear activity.

  • Last week, Great  Smoky Mountains National Park closed Russell Field Shelter (northbound mile 180.8) due to bear activity.
  • Last year, a 13-mile stretch of the trail in northern Tennesee’s Cherokee National Forest, including Double Springs Shelter, was closed after multiple reports of aggressive bears stealing food from camps.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park closed Cosby Knob Shelter last spring after a bear ripped open a tent to steal food.
  • 70 miles north of Brink Road, authorities temporarily closed New York’s Fingerboard Shelter in 2020 after years of bear activity.
  • Multiple shelters in southern Virginia’s Grayson Highlands State Park were closed and electric fences were installed around the shelters’ food storage lockers in 2018.
  • Authorities permanently closed and disassembled Tennessee’s Watauga Lake Shelter in 2019 following six years of persistent bear activity.

New Jersey has one of the highest bear concentrations on the AT. Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and North Carolina/Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park are also top contenders.

READ NEXT – Black Bears and Thru-Hiking: Your Questions Answered

Although Brink Road Shelter is better known among thru-hikers for intense mosquito activity than for bears, users of the thru-hiking navigation app FarOut have reported black bear activity near the shelter in recent years. “Just had two black bears walk up on me about .5 (miles) from the shelter and they didn’t give a fuck about my yelling. The bear activity is impressive,” one user commented on the Brink Road Shelter waypoint on June 20th, 2021. No users had commented about bear activity so far in 2022.

The Brink Road Shelter, like all other official AT shelters in New Jersey, has a permanent food storage locker.

Reducing Human-Bear Encounters

Black bear family. Via USFWS Midwest Region.

Responding to the announcement of the closure on social media, some users blamed the situation on New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s controversial decision to end the state Fish and Game Council’s annual bear hunt in favor of non-lethal population management techniques. Others argued that irresponsible hiker behaviors (like leaving food and trash unsecured on the trail) are to blame.

Hikers should always secure food and other smellable items (such as chapstick) overnight. This is for their own safety as well as that of the local wildlife. Wildlife managers often have to relocate or euthanize “problem bears” for the sake of public safety.

The Forest Service recommends the following procedures to reduce the risk of a close bear encounter:

  • Never leave food or trash unattended.
  • Never cook or store food in or near your tent.
  • Hang food and anything with strong odors (toothpaste, bug repellent, soap, etc.) at least 12 feet off the ground and 6 feet from a tree or limb, or use special food storage canisters and cable systems if available.
  • Keep a clean site by properly disposing of garbage including fruit rinds and cores, empty cans or jars and aluminum foil used for grilling or cooking.
  • Never feed a bear or other animals.
  • Never approach a bear.
  • If a bear approaches your site, pack up your food and trash.  Attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts if necessary, or by banging pans together.  If the bear is persistent, move away slowly to your vehicle or other secure area.
  • Keep children close at hand.
  • Keep pets properly confined to a leash or in a vehicle or camper.
  • Always respect bears and admire them from a distance.

Featured image via Shenandoah National Park.

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