Park rangers warn tourists about bear safety

Park rangers warn tourists about bear safety

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6 News caught two men Friday doing the exact opposite, climbing the hillside in search of that close up snapshot as mom and babies grazed. 6 News caught two men Friday doing the exact opposite, climbing the hillside in search of that close up snapshot as mom and babies grazed.
Bears are waking up out of hibernation just in time for a busy camping season in the Smokies, but as tourists are flocking to the mountains excited to get a glimpse of a bear, rangers say it is better to keep your distance or you could get hurt. Bears are waking up out of hibernation just in time for a busy camping season in the Smokies, but as tourists are flocking to the mountains excited to get a glimpse of a bear, rangers say it is better to keep your distance or you could get hurt.
Rangers say simple rules can keep both you and the bears safe: keep your distance, and do not even think about feeding them. Rangers say simple rules can keep both you and the bears safe: keep your distance, and do not even think about feeding them.
By WHITNEY GOOD
6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - Bears are waking up out of hibernation just in time for a busy camping season in the Smokies, but as tourists are flocking to the mountains excited to get a glimpse of a bear rangers say it is better to keep your distance or you could get hurt.

The Great Smoky Mountain Association warned weekend visitors in a Facebook status, saying "The park is home to about 1,500 black bears, most of which are currently emerging from their winter dens, and while spotting one of these wonderful animals can be a highlight of your visit, please keep in mind that bears are wild animals. They are dangerous and unpredictable."

A 6 News crew headed to the Smokies Friday to see if bears there were out of hibernation.

Not only did we find a momma bear and cubs, but we also ran into some tourists who were a little too eager to catch that memory on film, climbing closer and closer to the bears, and one even considering luring them down with food.

"It's absolutely a busy time of year to be a ranger and a bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This time of year we see females and males coming out of the dens and becoming more active in general," said park official Caitlin Worth.

They are waking up from hibernation, and they are hungry.

"The spring is a really hard time for bears because the food sources this time of year are pretty low calorie and so they're often kind of strapped for food," said Worth.

Rangers say simple rules can keep both you and the bears safe: keep your distance, and do not even think about feeding them.

6 News caught two men Friday doing the exact opposite, climbing the hillside in search of that close up snapshot as mom and babies grazed.

"Right at their core they're wild animals and that makes them unpredictable, and they're also large and powerful," said Worth.

Janice Booth is no stranger to the great outdoors and has had her fair share of run-ins with bears.

"The perfect bear run-in is you see the bear and he's running away from you," she said.

As a camper and frequent Appalachian Trail hiker she says there is another easy rule to keep the bears at bay.

Keep everything that smells away from you and your tent, even things like soaps and toothpaste.

"If they don't know that you are a source of food they will leave you alone. If they learn that you're a source of food then we have a problem," said Booth.

Just remember the bears may look cute and fluffy, but they are wild and no matter how badly you want that perfect picture, it is not worth risking your safety.

Luckily the bears 6 News saw did run away from the men climbing toward them, and everyone stayed safe, but rangers say that is not always the case.

If those bears feel threatened they will protect themselves and their young.
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