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Bear tranquilized, GSMNP visitors fined after feeding bear

According to investigators, witnesses documented the incident on video. The individuals responsible later confessed to their involvement.
Published: Jun. 7, 2021 at 2:39 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 6:15 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Great Smoky Mountain National Park rangers issued a citation to visitors accused of feeding a bear peanut butter in Cades Cove.

According to investigators, witnesses documented the incident on video. The individuals responsible later confessed to their involvement.

“Managing wild bears in a park that receives more than 12 million visitors is an extreme challenge and we must have the public’s help,” Park Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver said. “It is critical that bears never be fed or approached - for their protection and for human safety.”

Officials said the bear had been feeding on walnuts for several weeks along Cades Cove Loop Road. Wildlife biologists said they suspected the bear had been fed after it started to exhibit, “food-conditioned behavior.”

The bear was tranquilized and marked with an ear tag before being released near the same general area. Rangers said they use these techniques to discourage bears from frequenting parking areas, campgrounds and picnic areas where they may be tempted to approach vehicles in search of food.

Hikers are advised to take precautions while in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including hiking in groups of 3 or more, carrying bear spray, complying with all backcountry closures, properly following food storage regulations and remaining at a safe viewing distance from bears at all times.

Feeding, touching, disturbing, or willfully approaching wildlife within 50 yards, or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife, is illegal in the park, according to GSMNP officials.

In a situation where a person is approached by a bear, rangers advise people to back away slowly to create distance from the animal. If the bear continues to approach a person, they are advised not to run, but make themselves look large and throw rocks or sticks at the animal.

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