Bear greets visitors on Gatlinburg Parkway

Bear greeted people on the Parkway in Gatlinburg. (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- People walking down the Gatlinburg Parkway were greeted with a live bear on Tuesday evening.

P.J. Phipps was walking and saw a large crowd gathered. Phipps says the only thing he thought to do was take a picture of the bear that was looking at him.

"I got across the street and the crowd cleared and there's about a 500lb bear standing there looking at us," said Phipps.

Witnesses say the bear had just rummaged through a garbage dumpster. The National Park Service says people leaving food out may have lead to the unusual behavior to be such a populated area.

"Typically that's an indication that those bears have been getting people's food and garbage and have become very food conditioned and have become used to being around people and are willing to walk around people," said Bill Stiver, NPS.

He says this year they expected more baby cubs to be out. A food shortage in 2011 lead to baby cubs dying and this year with out cubs to raise most mothers mated leading to almost double the population.

This time of year bears are out looking for food, it's an in-between season of what they feed on.

"They're starting to move around a little bit, kind of refer to it as the fall shuffle. Where they start looking around starting to try to find acorn's and they're just not available yet," added Stiver.

Park service says you should always stay 50 yards from any bear, and always pick up food and place in a bear proof container.

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