ASHEVILLE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Bears in Asheville aren’t the rarest sight. In fact, every once in a while, one of them makes a trip downtown to go people-watching, like one from April of last year. A recent string of encounters caused officials with the Blue Ridge Parkway to close down 8 miles of the picturesque roadway during peak visiting season.

“We often across the given visitors’ season will hear quite a bit of folks seeing bears, but it is very uncommon for us to receive reports of park visitors feeding and interacting with the bear in this way,” said Leesa Brandon, Blue Ridge Parkway External Affairs Specialist.

She says they’ve been hearing reports of a bear seemingly unfazed by Asheville tourists near the Lane Pinnacle Overlook.

“We have had at least a dozen reports over the last two weekends of visitors who are reporting other visitors feeding the bears and interacting with the bear,” Brandon said.

She says it isn’t just unsafe for the people getting too close, but also for the animals. Fall is a busy time for bears as they forage for food for 20 hours a day, leading up to hibernation. Park officials are concerned that a bear relying on human food can become aggressive toward tourists. For that reason, they shut down 8 miles of the parkway from Craggy Gardens Picnic area to Ox Creek Road until further notice.

“What we would hope is that over this time our reforest management staff and other staff monitoring this area would see that the bear loses interest in that particular location,” she said, “because there won’t be people who are bringing food or are leaving trash, and the bear would move on to another area and not be such a frequent visitor.”

In the meantime, officials recommend visitors explore the other 461 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway and remember not to bother the bears.