Bear sightings lead Gatlinburg officials to stress safety

Family from out of town has food eaten out of cooler packed in truck
Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 11:56 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A Georgia family visiting Gatlinburg for the weekend had food in a cooler, packed in their car, ready to leave the next morning. Before the night was over, the food was eaten by a black bear.

”Kinda scary but a beautiful sight at the same time. My little sister Gracie, she wanted to go out there and pet it,” said Kimberly Edwards who was staying at the River Terrace Resort.

Edwards and her family returned for a trip to Gatlinburg for the first time in years, and after their first encounter with a bear, when they woke up Thursday morning to leave, they saw more.

”Another bear came this morning. A momma bear and cub came and visited us when we were trying to load the truck up, I guess it just wanted to come back to Georgia with us,” said Edwards.

Gatlinburg Bear Warnings
Gatlinburg Bear Warnings(WVLT)
Gatlinburg Bear Warnings
Gatlinburg Bear Warnings(WVLT)
Gatlinburg Bear Warnings
Gatlinburg Bear Warnings(WVLT)

These encounters are not uncommon, but it’s a good moment for Gatlinburg officials to remind folks to be careful.

”We pushed out this morning as part of our social media push starting today with best tips how to interact with bears, best tips how to dispose of your trash, how to secure your trash,” said Seth Butler the public information officer with the City of Gatlinburg.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed many people to turn to outdoor adventure to responsibly social distance. Because of this move, there are more first-time visitors flocking to Gatlinburg and Sevier County.

”Number one we want them to be safe, number two we want them to keep the bears safe because I know everybody wants to come here, they want to see a bear and have that interaction but we have to do our part to keep the bears safe,” said Butler.

Gatlinburg has a city ordinance in place requiring houses and businesses to have bear-proof garbage cans. A failure to have one could result in either a $113.75 citation if issued by city police, or a citation to General Sessions Court if issued by a TWRA Officer.

If anyone has a question they can call the Gatlinburg sanitation department at (865) 436-5959.

Officials add if anyone has a concern about bears to call Gatlinburg Police.

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