Back the Bears scheduled for April 6

Published 12:11 pm Thursday, March 28, 2019

Spring arrival has brought with it the brilliant purple blooms of the redbuds, the enchanting red and yellow flowers of the wild columbine, the sweet aroma of the lily of the valley, the return of the scarlet tanager with its charming red and black hues…and hungry black bears. This is exactly why all should attend the April 6 “Back the B.E.A.R.S.” educational event being held at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (NHP).

Jenny Beeler, the park’s Resource Management Specialist, promotes this event as “one stop bear fact shopping” where visitors will have numerous opportunities to connect with black bear experts from the National Park Service and state wildlife agencies and learn how all can live together, avoid bear-people interactions and enjoy this symbol of the Southern Appalachian forest.

Beeler admits that there is much to learn when it comes to bear facts.

“I’m amazed at this highly adaptable and intelligent animal, and I’m continually learning more and more about bear behavior. To help people really appreciate, understand and know what to do when it comes to bears, the park has embarked on this aggressive educational campaign ‘BACK THE B.E.A.R.S. – Be Educated and Responsible Stewards.’ We want park neighbors to also be fiercely proud and protective of bear populations in the area and the unique tourism opportunities that exist due to the black bear presence.”

“Be Bear Aware” visitors will be treated to an amazing array of programs. Kim Delozier, retired bear expert from Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM) and author will be the keynote speaker and will intrigue and humor with his “Bear in the Back Seat – Adventures of a Wildlife Ranger.” Delozier will also sign copies of his exciting and entertaining book.

Dr. David Unger, Associate Professor of Biology at Maryville College in Tennessee will present “America’s Bear: The Ecology of the Black Bear and the Research We Use to Study Them.” Dr. Unger is well acquainted with bears in the Cumberland Gap region having trapped and placed radio collars on them as part of his Ph. D. studies while at the University of Kentucky.

John Hast, Bear/Furbearer/Wild Pig Coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources will pique visitors’ interests as he details “Current Bear Management in Kentucky.” Kathy Sherrard from the Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR), a one-of-a-kind black bear rehabilitation facility located just outside of GRSM, will fascinate with her “Second Chances for Kentucky Cubs.” She will also showcase the success story of a young bear cub who survived being hit by a vehicle while crossing a road in Cumberland Gap NHP.

Throughout the day, there will be hands-on activities galore for kids. ABR staff will tell electrifying black bear stories. Park rangers will demonstrate bear hazing, a good spanking for bears “getting into trouble.” Experts will show how today’s technology is being used to track bear. Bear skulls and skins will showcase this animal’s amazing adaptations. Kids will be able to have their photos taken with a family of painted wooden bear cutouts.

“It’s going to take all of us working together to keep bears wild. We can do it and one of the first ways is by becoming ‘Bear Aware’ at this fun and free event.” campaigns Beeler.

This event runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and is made possible by generous funding and support from park partner Eastern National. Learn how Eastern National supports the educational mission of the National Park Service by visiting www.easternnational.org. For a complete Back the B.E.A.R.S. program schedule, visitors can call 606-246-1075 or request via cuga_interpretation@nps.gov.