Heading to the Smokies? Don’t feed the bears!

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As we enter the summer months, many of you may be traveling to the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee where you will likely see a common sight…bears!

Unfortunately, on Sunday, park biologists had to tranquilize a bear after it was getting too close to people who were trying to feed it peanut butter. The hope is that this experience will put the sense of fear of humans back into the animal.

Picture courtesy of Jeannine Henney
Picture courtesy of Jeannine Henney

The mistake of people feeding the bears is all too common a problem.

“We don’t want to feed bears because they will become accustomed to being fed by people,” explained Barry Cross, TWRA Region 2 Communications and Outreach Coordinator. “And that’s bad for the bear, and that’s bad for you too. Because you don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night and have a bear up on your porch.”

And there’s an old saying that says “A fed bear is a dead bear,” because if he gets too used to humans, he could even be euthanized.

“You don’t want a bear that is not afraid of people,” Cross said. “So, feeding a bear will do that. And that, consequently, that bear’s either going to have to be removed or maybe even euthanized.”

So what should you do if you encounter a bear while you are camping or hiking unprotected?

“If the bear doesn’t see you, just enjoy it and let it move on, and then you continue your day in a different direction,” Cross said. “But if the bear does see you, don’t run. Back away slowly. Don’t run because that could trigger the bear coming after you.”

“Speak loudly at it, not to call it to you but to scare it off. If that’s still not working, start making all kinds of noise as you back away slowly and try to scare that bear off. He should run in the other direction.”

If you would like to learn more about safety tips for both you and the bears, visit the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency’s Bearwise.org.

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