Fall may be one of the busiest times of year on Lookout Mountain, but not only tourists are roaming through these woods.

In recent years, the black bear population and sightings in the Mentone area have increased dramatically, making it ever-important that visitors know what to do when they come upon one and how to stay safe when traveling or staying in the woods.

BearWise, an black bear program developed by biologists and supported by state wildlife agencies, offers online articles and tips with sound information and smart solutions that help homeowners, businesses and communities coexist with bears.

According to BearWise, fall is the “last chance” for bears to eat a lot before the winter and they are roaming and searching for every bit of food they can find, natural or not. While most fall activities here on Lookout Mountain are spent outdoors and in the woods, these six tips for outdoor safety can be vital.

  1. Be vigilant while driving: Fall is prime time to encounter bears, deer, and more on the roadways, especially at dawn, dusk, and night. Slow down, pay attention, and check the roadsides for the tell-tale eye-shine.
  2. Stay alert while on trails: Hikers and cyclists can move swiftly and quietly in the woods, making it easier to accidentally surprise a bear, who may strike out in fear. Don’t wear headphones, and make noise on your trip through the woods.
  3. Clean up picnic areas: When leaving a picnic area, make sure to clean and properly dispose of all food scraps and trash left behind. It is also recommended not to burn food in fire pits or grills, as this can still attract bears to the site.  
  4. Take precautions when cooking outdoors: According to BearWise, bears can smell cooking food at up to five miles, so campers are advised to cook any food well away from their tent, and the campsite should be kept well cleaned. Any food should be properly stored and secured.
  5. Properly clean and store fish you catch: Since cleaning out a fish would attract a bear, clean the fish in the water and dispose of the insides there. Double bag and seal fish in a cooler when transporting or simply clean the fish at home if you’re traveling there soon after.
  6. Stay safe when hunting: Because of the quiet and hidden element in hunting, it is easy for a hunter to be surprised by a bear who has been attracted to a kill. If this happens, do not engage with the bear. If it approaches your hunting stand, wave your hands and yell to discourage it. 
Roadways can be dangerous places for bears and drivers during heightened times of movement. It is also very important to properly dispose of all trash and store food away from a bear’s reach.

Click here for more information on outdoor bear safety, and look into BearWise’s tips for vacationers here.