A Harriman man was injured early Saturday morning when he surprised a bear on the porch of the cabin he was renting in Wears Valley.
The man heard a noise on the porch and went to investigate, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency’s Matt Cameron. There he came face-to-face with a bear. The bear swatted at him, leaving scratches on his arm before eventually fleeing.
“I looked down and saw the blood on my arm and thought I just got attacked by a bear,” Tom Jeskie, the man attacked, said. “It hurt. It’s actually bruised on the one end. My arm came back in against me. It sort of pushed me back a little bit, I dropped the flashlight, had my hand in the door still, so when it pushed me back like that, I just started shutting the door.”
Cameron said the bear appeared to be large, based on the claw marks on the man’s arm. He added that a trap was set for the bear and, if caught, it would likely not be euthanized.
“It responded in a way that’s understandable,” Cameron said. “It responded the same way any animal would – a raccoon or even a dog.”
The TWRA issued a depredation permit to a neighbor which would allow the neighbor to kill the bear if it becomes active in the daytime, or becomes aggressive.
Cameron urged people to take food out of their car, lock their car doors and roll their windows up.
“Their noses are so good they can smell food through car windows and they’ve figured out how to get into cars,” Cameron said.
The Wears Valley incident comes on the heels of a rash of videos and photos posted to social media showing people getting dangerously close to black bears in Cades Cove as they try to take pictures of the bears.
Jamie Sanders, a spokesperson for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, said that willfully getting within 150 feet (50 yards) of a bear in the park is illegal and could lead to a $5,000 fine and even arrest.
“If you notice a bear changes its behavior, really starts to look up and look at you a lot, you are affecting that bear’s behavior,” said Sanders.
Sanders said rangers do issue citations regularly for people who get too close to the animals. She added that, if you see someone getting too close to a bear in the park, you should find the nearest park employee. That person can use the park’s radio system to get a ranger out to the scene.
She said bears can get too comfortable around people and in some cases, the park has no choice but to deal with that bear. Sanders said it typically means relocating the animal.