Bear alerts sent to phones of GSMNP visitors

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, Tenn. (WVLT) Everyday thousands of people from across the country visit the Great Smoky Mountains, most of them carrying a cell phone with them. TWRA is now using those those to help keep black bears safe.

Ads posted by TWRA with geofencing./(WVLT)

"They get a lot of attention you don't typically see with other wildlife," Dan Gibbs said. "They are an iconic species."

That's why almost everyone wants to see them, but Gibbs with TWRA said some visitors might not know the best way to interact with them.

"Don't get to close to it, don't feed it and don't do anything that's going to cause it to be habituated to humans," Gibbs said.

With new visitors everyday, TWRA is trying a new way to educate the public on bear safety with a digital marketing technique called geofencing. It's direct marketing to a smartphone based on your location as you scroll online.

"We outlined some particular spots in the Gatlinburg city limits, where if someone went into that area across that fence, they would see those ads," Gibbs said.

In just ninety days, TWRA bear ads reached nearly two million people. In Gibbs' eyes it might be the best way to share the message in the digital age, protecting both visitors and the bears.

"We want you to see it in its natural environment in its wild state," Gibbs said. "We don't want you to see it looking out your window, and it rummaging through garbage, that's not what is natural."

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