SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — Reporter’s note: It is important to remember these bears are wild animals. This article includes tips to keep yourself and the bears safe.
Black bears are a staple of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
While you can normally spot them strolling through Cades Cove, these mischievous beasts also have a knack for sticking their noses where they don’t belong.
It’s pretty common to see them digging into unsecured trash cans, but sometimes their antics are downright wild.
Here are 10 of the weirdest things black bears have done in and around the Smokies.
1. A couple of bears decided to do their best impressions of Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, aka WWE superstar Kane, and used someone’s front yard to practice their wrestling moves.
2. One bear took a dip in someone’s hot tub.
3. It’s unclear if this bear was trying to take a dip or looking for a snack, but either way, it chewed on this person’s hot tub cover.
4. This young bear invited itself into someone’s vacation cabin.
5. This bear clawed its way into someone’s house in a “bear-glary” attempt.
6. Some cubs accidentally locked themselves in a van and honked the horn to be let out.
7. This bear took a stroll through the DENSO plant. It’s unclear if it was lost or looking for a job. Either way, it was safely relocated.
8. This bear just really wanted to waste away again in Margaritaville.
9. This bear helped itself to some supper from a restaurant’s table.
10. This prolific bear decided the ground was so last year and explored the top of the Ripley’s Theatre in Gatlinburg.
While these stories are funny, it is important to remember these bears are wild animals and need to stay that way. Wildlife officials ask every resident and visitor to be “BearWise” and take proper precautions to keep themselves and the bears safe.
More often than not, bears end up paying the price because humans forget to clean up after themselves or get too close for a picture.
Here are some tips you definitely need to know before you visit bear country:
More of our beloved Smoky Mountain black bears on our YouTube playlist:
BearWise Vacation Tips
Don’t Feed the Bears
Don’t leave food, trash or pet food outdoors when no one is around. A few seconds is all it takes for a hungry bear to swipe it.
Feeding bears or using food to encourage bears to approach you is often illegal and always dangerous.
Don’t throw scraps or leftovers out the car window or into the woods behind your vacation rental.
If a trash container or dumpster is full, don’t pile trash outside; take it with you when you leave.
Bear Viewing Guidelines
Stay in your vehicle; even bears that seem comfortable around people are still wild animals.
Never approach bears or entice them to approach you.
Enjoy bears from a safe distance. Stay at least 50 yards or 10 car lengths away.
Don’t block the road to view bears. If permitted, pull over and take photos from the safety of your vehicle.
Driving in Bear Country
Stay alert, stick to the speed limit and scan the roadsides. If a bear crosses the road, watch for cubs before you drive on.
Be especially alert at dawn and dusk when bears are most active; black bears are fast and hard to see.
If you hit a bear, don’t try to help it. Call 911 or report to authorities as soon as you can.
Dogs and bears don’t mix.
Keep your dog on a leash at all times when outdoors. Letting your dog approach or lunge at a bear puts you and your pet in danger.
Lock vehicles; don’t leave windows open even a crack. Remove anything with an odor (food, drinks, trash, pet food, scented products).
Keep exterior doors closed, even when you’re there.
Don’t stash food, beverages, trash or recycling on porches/patios/decks.
If You See a Black Bear
If a bear comes around your place, try to scare it away by making lots of noise yelling or banging pots and pans together from a safe distance.
If you see a bear near a dumpster or in a building, don’t approach or corner it. Give the bear an escape route.
Black bears are seldom aggressive and attacks are rare.
Carry bear spray and know how to use it.
If you see a bear before it notices you: Stand still, don’t approach and enjoy the moment. Then move away quietly in the opposite direction.
If you encounter a bear that is aware of you: don’t run; running may trigger a chase response. Back away slowly in the opposite direction and wait for the bear to leave.