GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A bear and her two yearlings were trapped near the Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg and euthanized Saturday for nuisance behavior, TWRA said.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said they got several reports about the sow, a female bear, accompanied by her two yearlings that were born last year but still travel with their mother.
The bears were acting aggressively toward people, even chasing one man into his home Thursday evening. TWRA said the bears caused some damage while trying to break in. The man told dispatchers at 7:35 p.m. Thursday a bear ripped the screen door and two screen windows off of his home. An officer also reported seeing a bear trying to tear down the man's mailbox.
Nearby construction workers also reported being chased back into their vehicles by the "extremely aggressive" bears, according to a police records. Following the reports, authorities used the TWRA Black Bear Matrix for guidance on the bears' behaviors to determine their euthanization. TWRA's Matt Cameron said this instance fell under the "Level 3 - Type E" designation on the matrix. Two of the bears weighed 100 lbs each, while the other weighed 150 lbs.
The problem stems from people intentionally feeding the animals, teaching them that food can be found in cabins and cars. TWRA said bears have figured out how to open car doors, and several vehicles were broken into as a result.
"The actions of irresponsible people are the reason these bears had to be killed," Cameron said. "They are killing these bears by acting irresponsibly."
You're not allowed to feed, or get close to bears. In Cades Cove, you could even get arrested for it.
Angela Davis is from Middle Tennessee and went with her family to the Cades Cove loop Monday.
"We got excited because there was a mother bear, and we saw the babies first," she said. "Right off the road so we jumped out of the car."
She said they kept a safe distance, but park rangers reminded the family that they're not allowed to purposefully get closer than 50 yards of a bear or elk.
Under federal law, getting an unsafe distance could end up with a $5,000 fine or a trip to jail for up to six months, according to park rangers.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Service said they are operating on a smaller staff than in the past and rangers are struggling to keep up with enforcement.
Gatlinburg also has laws in place that prohibit feeding bears, but TWRA said that doesn't extend anywhere else in the county. The laws work; Cameron said calls about bears are down in Gatlinburg, but once out of city limits the calls go up.
"A fed bear is a dead bear," Cameron said.
The best way to solve this problem? Education, according to TWRA. The agency said it's working on a educational video, hoping it will be played automatically on every TV in a tourist cabin. They also caution that bird feeders are just as bad as leaving out food.