Bear searching for food rips open metal shed at Gatlinburg home

Bear searching for food rips open metal shed at Gatlinburg home

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"This is pretty hard metal to bend. He was going after the garbage, and now it's all back there," Frank Bartkus said. "This is pretty hard metal to bend. He was going after the garbage, and now it's all back there," Frank Bartkus said.
The bear left the trash scattered. The bear left the trash scattered.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - This year there seems to be an increase of bear run-ins throughout East Tennessee.

There was a bear roaming the UT campus earlier in June and one prowling the streets of Oak Ridge in May. The bear activity has prompted warnings from officials and extra precautions.

Frank Bartkus has lived near the Great Smoky Mountains for seven years, but this year he says he's seen more bears than ever on his property.

Monday morning, he woke up to find his shed ripped open and trash scattered.

"He ripped half the door off," Bartkus said showing 6 News the metal shed he uses to store garbage. "First year we used to see (bears) around walking up the road once and a while, or the other side by the river, but we were disappointed because we hadn't seen any in a while. Where'd they all go? Well they were waiting for this year."

"This is pretty hard metal to bend. He was going after the garbage, and now it's all back there," Bartkus said.

Earlier in June, a bear knocked over and opened a latched box where Bartkus used to store garbage. That same week, a bear came after his dog.

"A bear comes running out after him, swatted at him, I think he hit him because he squealed and I started screaming at the top of my lungs," Bartkus said.

He says there have been four incidents so far this year, but according to park rangers, bear activity in the Smokies is lower than average.

"It's actually been a pretty mild year for bears," said Ranger Molly Schorer. Currently there are 10 active bear warnings and two campsites closed due to bear activity, but's that normal for the summer.

"Bears are active this time of year," Schorer explained. "And we are activity monitoring them and their behavior to make sure its safe for people in those areas."

Rangers say it's important for campers at the park to be proactive, hanging up all food and removing all garbage. 

Wildlife officials say the bear that tore apart the shed was probably used to eating garbage from around the park.

"It's unusual for him to rip open a compartment like that. It tells me the bear has probably become habituated to eating garbage," said Matt Cameron, with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Cameron said Bartkus did everything correctly by keeping his garbage locked up. He explained there are sprays and other deterrents he could use in and around his garbage compartments.

But Bartkus says he doesn't plan on taking any chances. "Whenever it gets full in the house, we're going to have to take it to the dump. Even if it's just one," he said.

Bartkus understands living in the mountains means he's living near bears, and that's one of the things he loves about it. But this is the first time he's felt threatened, and it makes him uneasy.

"I can understand then going after the dog because they were protecting their cubs," he said. "But to rip a door off? Same kinds of doors in the house - scares me."

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