The Red River Gorge will reopen Friday morning after being closed since Monday following a bear attack.
Forest Supervisor Frank Beum of the Daniel Boone National Forest announced in a release Thursday afternoon that the gorge will reopen at 8 a.m. It was closed for four days while wildlife workers looked for the bear who attacked a man hiking on Pinch-Em Tight Trail on Sunday.
Natural Bridge State Resort Park also will reopen its hiking trails Friday. The trails were closed as a precaution, although the lodge, sky lift and bridge remained open.
Steve Dobey, a black bear biologist with the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said Thursday that there were several sightings in a rural part of Lee County, just south of Beattyville, of a bear that matches the description of the one involved in Sunday's attack.
Gerry van der Meer, commissioner of state parks, said the park has seen little to no impact because of travelers changing their plans. The campground and Natural Bridge lodge are expected to be full for the Fourth of July weekend.
Officials with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources are continuing their search for the bear that attacked Tim Scott, 56, of Springfield. On Thursday, officials said the bear might have traveled to Lee County, possibly looking for female bears.
After bear sightings there, "We investigated the scene immediately. We're very confident that this is the same individual," said Dobey, the bear biologist.
He said that bear's physical description and ear tags were the same as the bear that attacked Scott. Scott said he was attacked as he was hiking on a trail at the gorge. Scott said he took a few pictures of the bear but started backing away as it came toward him. He said the bear bit his leg as Scott turned around. Other hikers helped him fight off the bear.
Scott received 50 to 60 stitches, mostly in his right leg.
Officials have said it was the first known black bear attack on a human in modern Kentucky history.
Dobey has said it's "extremely rare" for a black bear to attack a human and, in this case, the bear apparently attacked without provocation. Scott was not carrying food.
If officials capture the bear, it will be checked for identifying marks, and its claws might be tested for human blood or tissue to determine whether it was Scott's attacker. If it is, Dobey has said, it will be euthanized.
Park service and law enforcement officials urged Beattyville residents to immediately call authorities if they spot the bear. But Dobey said the bear probably has left the area already.
He said it is not uncommon for male bears to travel 30 to 60 miles in a week, maybe more, during mating season, looking for female bears.
"It's very likely that he's continued moving," Dobey said.
He said park service workers will continue to track reported sightings of black bears. Meanwhile, traps and bait have been removed from Daniel Boone National Forest, he said.
About 15 foothold snares and traps were set this week.
Rangers will have an increased presence in the gorge this weekend to communicate precautions about food storage and how to avoid a bear encounter, said District Ranger Dave Manner.
On Wednesday, Daniel Boone National Forest issued an order for the Red River Gorge that prohibits open food storage or leaving food accessible to bears.
Campers must store food, including pet food, in a bear-resistant container, inside their vehicle, or in an enclosed hard-body trailer. Backcountry campers must suspend food and garbage at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet away from any tree or pole.
Anyone who sees a nuisance or aggressive bear is asked to call 1-800-252-5378.