Tourists come dangerously close to black bear at Great Smoky Mountains National Park


BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A now viral video taken over the weekend shows a group of tourists within feet of a black bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The 30-second video was filmed from afar by Kelly Helms, as she and her family were between Townsend and Cades Cove.

“I just want tourists to realize how dangerous this is, not only for them, but the bear also,” Helms told News 2.

Encounters with black bears are frequently reported in the eastern part of the state, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reports.

The TWRA has compiled a list of “things to know” when it comes to black bears:

  • While black bears are usually tolerant of humans, they should always be treated as wild animals, whether in residential or back-country areas.
  • Black bears are rarely aggressive towards people and typically go out of their way to avoid contact, however as human development continues and bear numbers increase, occasional interactions will be unavoidable.
  • Black bears are extremely powerful animals whose behaviors can be unpredictable.
  • Black bears are very curious animals and this should not be confused with aggression.
  • Startled bears will often confront intruders by turning sideways to appear larger, make woofing and teeth clacking sounds, salivate, lay their ears back and slap the ground with their paws. These are warnings for you to leave the area.
  • Bears will often stand on their hind legs to get a better view or a better sense of hearing and smell.

According to the TWRA, following simple guidelines will minimize unnecessary and potentially dangerous encounters:

  • Never feed or approach bears!
  • If a bear approaches you in the wild, it is probably trying to assess your presence.
  • If you see a black bear from a distance, alter your route of travel, return the way you came, or wait until it leaves the area.
  • Make your presence known by yelling and shouting at the bear in an attempt to scare it away.
  • If approached by a bear, stand your ground, raise your arms to appear larger, yell and throw rocks or sticks until it leaves the area.
  • When camping in bear country, keep all food stored in a vehicle and away from tents.
  • Never run from a black bear! This will often trigger its natural instinct to chase.
  • If a black bear attacks, fight back aggressively and do not play dead! Use pepper spray, sticks, rocks, or anything you can find to defend yourself. If cornered or threatened, bears may slap the ground, “pop” their jaws or “huff” as a warning. If you see these behaviors, you are too close! Slowly back away while facing the bear at all times.
  • Notify the TWRA immediately if you witness aggressive behavior by black bears!

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