Bears out for food in East Tennessee

Pixaby/MGN

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Rangers in the Great Smoky Mountains say they're not surprised we're finding more bears out this time of the year.

Males, moms and their cubs are out looking for food and moving around a lot to look for that food.

The park says half a football field is a safe distance for you to stay away. "To allow them to feel safe and allow them to continue foraging for those spring foods that are so scarce. It also keeps you safe," said Dana Soehn, with the park.

Rangers say to bear proof your trash and a trail or roadway is not the place to leave any kind of human food.

"Even things like apple cores and banana peels that you may think are biodegradable of course, are still going to attract bears closer than they should be to a trail, campground a picnic area" she said.

A recent study showed bears are moving further outside the national park's boundaries than originally thought. Which explains why we're seeing more of them where we live.

"Bear populations have been rising steadily the last 20-30 years and we know now that bears are traveling further distances to find the food to support them throughout the year."

And as more building happens closer to the park, there's limited places for the bears to live.

"So while the park is still their core habitat, they are utilizing areas 5-10 miles outside of the park boundary."