SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A black bear that aggressively attacked a home in Wears Valley has been captured and euthanized, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.
Last weekend the bear was reported to TWRA after it apparently smelled food cooking inside a home west of Line Springs Road in Sevier County. Video shared on social media shows the large bear pawing at a door frame and slamming into the glass. The area is near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park boundary.
“The bear entered a home,” explained Dan Gibbs, black bear program leader for TWRA. “Our conflict matrix requires that bears we capture exhibiting this behavior be euthanized.”
The bear was captured on June 6.
While the exact cause of the bear’s behavior is not known, it is believed that the bear had been fed human food at some point in the past. Gibbs said behaviors like this bear exhibited don’t develop overnight.
“It’s a process that starts with something seemingly minor like trash left in a campfire ring or someone tossing a small bit of food to a bear for a photo op. Then the bear “takes a chance” with a bird feeder or garbage. This is when it becomes a risk vs reward decision for the bear and the reward (lots of calories really fast) is worth the risk (being near people). From that point, it just continues to escalate and the risk becomes greater to the point that they start entering vehicles and homes.”
In March, TWRA relocated a 500-pound black bear named “Big Bruin” from Greenville after he was found getting into garbage cans and pet food left outside. The difference is that Big Bruin was not showing signs of aggression, according to TWRA wildlife officer Austin Wilson.
In 2020, officials were forced to euthanize at least 3 bears – two of whom were acting aggressively toward humans. Lisa McGinnis, chief of resource management and science for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said euthanasia is always the last option for bears.
All wildlife experts emphatically warn people against feeding a bear. Once fed, the bears continue coming back for more and will become aggressive about it — putting people’s lives at risk and causing the bear to be euthanized.
Feeding bears also teaches them to overcome their instinctive fear of humans — rewarding them for approaching people the same way that a treat rewards a dog. This includes unintentional feedings, like allowing bears to eat garbage or pet food.
More best practices for people who move into communities where bear activity is likely can be found online. The TWRA website on black bears holds even more information.
TWRA reminds everyone that black bears are wild animals and should be treated as such, whether in residential or backcountry areas. If you experience aggressive bear behavior, contact TWRA.
“I remind people that our actions, good or bad, will ultimately influence bear behavior. So let’s influence their behavior in a good way,” Gibbs said.