GATLINBURG, Tenn. — The City of Gatlinburg is re-upping its warnings about bears amid several sightings of the iconic animals. As more people film bears wandering the city, they are worried people may not be as cautious as they should be.
Visitors in downtown Gatlinburg have a chance of seeing a bear. Whether it's real, stuffed, ceramic or drawn — they are everywhere.
Businesses said it’s becoming more and more common to see a bear strolling down the street. More visitors coming in for the holidays can also mean more interactions between humans and bears, especially over the past couple of weeks.
"They're cool, they're cool. They're kind of like the mascots. We don't mess with them, they don't mess with us," local tattoo artist Ben Merchant said. "We see them constantly!”
But more and more real-life bears are being spotted downtown. And like many other visitors in Gatlinburg, they're just stopping by for the food.
"They smell the trout. they like it," Trout House employee Dawn Loyd said.
"I love bears, they're so cute!”
Trout house manager Zachery Akey said he sees bears all the time, even last week.
"People are feeding them which you're not supposed to feed the bears, so they know there's food around here," he said.
He tells tourists not to get close but he said they don't always listen. One time, he said a person chased a bear into a nearby river. Then, the river started threatening him, leading to a tense situation.
Close interaction is not only dangerous for humans, but also for the cute bears wandering the city. Blue Green vacations see tourists daily. They take it upon themselves to educate visitors on just what is at stake.
"If a bear attacks yo, the bear has to be put down. That's not fair to that bear because we're in their habitat. That's what we tell people when they come in. Just stay away from them," Carlos Asbury said.
Employees at Gatlinburg Tattoo Company also spotted one trying to get into their back-door Wednesday before setting its sights on the dumpster alley.
"In town, they're not afraid of people at all," Merchant said.
If you see a bear, here are a few reminders:
- Never feed bears
- Don't approach it
- Stay 50-100 yards away
- Don't leave food outside
Police said black bears are rarely aggressive and attacks are rare, but if you do spot a bear, call 911.