Your Personal Safety and Preventing Crime in National Forests
This subject is a little touchy, but you must be aware of some things when entering any National Forest, National Park, BLM Site, etc. There are threats to your personal safety and security in these places. Threats come from several sources – terrain, weather, animals, reptiles, plants, insects, and yes, other people. Just because these areas are beautiful recreation areas does not mean that you can completely let your guard down. Have fun, but be careful!
We highly recommend this link to a brochure entitled Preventing Crime in Our National Forests and Grasslands that is published by the US Department of Agriculture. It is in .pdf format – you can download and read or print it. It is generic information, but well written and informative. We will address several specific questions you may have below.
The brochure above is a great resource, but we’d like to add a couple of suggestions about parking when you go fishing or on a hike or camping trip. First, do not leave valuable items visible in your car, store them in your trunk. When storing valuables in your cars trunk, do not do it at the trailhead where someone might be watching – store your items before you get to the parking area. Another thing to consider is to photograph cars in the parking area – especially if they seem out of place or suspicious. Also, park in the center of the parking area when possible, not to the sides of the parking lot near brushy areas where a thief can hide easily.
Here are a couple safety brochures published by the Forest Service. They are worth reading. The first is a waterfall safety sheet, and the second contains information about what to do if you feel you are lost.
Questions you may have about visiting the Pisgah National Forest.
Yes – there are snakes here, and yes – there are black bears here. Should you be concerned? Not particularly. Should you be aware? Yes.
About the snakes. The Pisgah National Forest has two venomous snakes that are native to the area – the Timber rattlesnake, and the Copperhead. In our six years here we have seen numerous rattlesnakes, but never a live Copperhead. All of the rattlesnakes we have seen have been very docile. They prefer to lay motionless, sunning themselves, and seem to believe that if they do not move you will not see them and you will pass by without incident. We have heard of cases where they have rattled a warning at visitors, so we know that they can be riled up. We are aware of several cases of snake bites,but they are rare, and only one bite was unprovoked. Sounds a lot like if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone – doesn’t it? Our bottom line recommendation is to keep your eyes open as you hike, and look where you are walking and before you step over logs. If you see a snake, do not attempt to handle it, and please do not kill it – simply wait for it to pass by, or walk well around it. And take a picture!
About the bears. I our six years here we have seen three bears, and we had one snort at us from the bushes near a creek. One we saw was a large bear on highway 276 about 10:30 at night. The other two were cubs we saw while out cleaning up debris in an abandoned campsite. The cubs were cute little guys. We did not see their mom – and we were looking for her! The snort came from bushed between us and a creek we were hiking next to. It was clearly a warning sound. We were a tired and were hiking quietly along – not making noise. We guess we got too close before the bear heard or saw us, and it let us know it was there. The standard recommendation about bears is to make some noise as you hike. The goal is to NOT surprise a bear. They will usually retire from people if they know you are coming. For more bear safety information click here.
Pisgah National Forest Concealed Carry Handgun Information
We are frequently asked about carrying concealed firearms in the forest. The regulations regarding carrying weapons on forest lands have changed. Persons may lawfully carry any firearm openly that they are otherwise lawfully entitled to possess, and may carry concealed handgun if they possess a current and valid concealed handgun permit issued to them. However, persons may not hunt with any firearm being carried unless such firearm is authorized as a lawful method of take game for that open season. The Forest Service has a fact sheet on firearms located here.