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Bear taking stroll in downtown Gatlinburg no surprise to experts

Bear experts say it’s not surprising to see a bear in downtown Gatlinburg, but what’s shocking is the bear seen in a video recently doesn’t seem bothered by all the people.
A black bear wanders around Gatlinburg.
A black bear wanders around Gatlinburg.(WVLT)
Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 9:37 PM EDT
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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) - Bear experts say it’s not surprising to see a bear in downtown Gatlinburg, but what’s shocking is the bear seen in a video recently doesn’t seem bothered by all the people.

In the video, a bear approaches a crosswalk in Gatlinburg, attempted to cross the road and then turns around.

Wildlife officers say this is something that doesn’t surprise them, in fact it’s something Dan Gibbs has seen before.

“It was very close to the main drag there in Gatlinburg and at one point was headed straight to the rain. And we were able to get ahead of it and tossed some rocks to get it turned around,” said TWRA Officer Gibbs.

Gibbs said this is the time of year that bears are most hungry. He said the berries are limited and the nuts haven’t fully produced. So the bears are out looking for food. You can expect more pictures of them dumpster diving in the coming weeks, like this bear in the video below.

“Gatlinburg is its own unique situation. There are so many people in Gatlinburg and everyone who lives around here knows there’s issues with bears being food conditioned and habituated to people,” he said.

He said just because you’re further away from Great Smoky Mountains National Park doesn’t mean you won’t see bears in your area.

“This time of year is when we start getting the calls from Knox County ... they’re looking for food and they’re roaming,” said Gibbs.

TWRA lists tips on how to coexist with bears:

  • 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.

You can learn more about black bears here.

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